Dec 19, 2013; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook (0) handles the ball while being guarded by Chicago Bulls point guard D.J. Augustin (14) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

OKC Thunder (48-18) at Chicago Bulls (37-29) Preview

It won’t get any easier for the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight as they will be on the second night of a back-to-back on the road against one of the toughest defenses in the NBA.

The Chicago Bulls will look to be the second team in as many nights to beat the Thunder, who lost by 23 at home to the Dallas Mavericks yesterday without Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder and Bulls played in OKC back on Dec. 19 with the Thunder winning 107-95. Westbrook was healthy for that game, scoring 20 points to go with 10 assists in 28 minutes.

Kevin Durant was also super efficient vs. Chicago the first go around, totaling 32 points on 13-of-20 shooting from the field.

The loss yesterday hurts, but somewhat less so sense Westbrook (and not to mention Sefolosha and Perkins) was not in the lineup.

Westbrook has been on a tear of late and the way the Thunder are constructed now, missing a few starters, Westbrook’s performance is as important as anything for this team. When his jumper is falling and he’s getting his teammates involved, the Thunder can beat anyone. If Russ struggles, OKC can lose to anyone.

Effort, which has been questioned in the Thunder’s play over the last month at times, will be the biggest thing to watch tonight. We all know Chicago will play their hearts out and the Thunder must match that intensity and focus to ensure a victory.

The game will tip at 7 p.m. CST and air nationally on ESPN.

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