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Thursday, December 19, 2013
Opening Tip: Bulls gear up for Thunder

By Nick Friedell

HOUSTON -- As many married couples can attest to, the key to breaking out of a frustrating stretch in any relationship is better communication.

Taj Gibson and the Chicago Bulls are hoping the same applies to losing streaks as his team gets set to face the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

"We're going to have to talk a little bit better," Gibson said after Wednesday's loss to the Houston Rockets. "Our guards are going to have to fight through a lot of screens. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be won on the boards and talking on defense and helping each other and just being supportive of each other on the court.

"It seems like our defense kind of lacks [the] talking and support the way we normally have. If one man goes, the other man's going to step into his spot and help him out. I think we got to communicate a little bit better."

Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau knows that his team must get ready for the Thunder's tempo. OKC certainly plays fast, just like the Rockets.

"You got guys that can break you down off the dribble," Thibodeau said. "They can turn you over. They get into the open floor; they can hurt you there. Durant is a tough guy to challenge because he can score so many different ways. They're playing very unselfishly. So they move the ball well.

"[Serge] Ibaka is a very underrated guy. They got guys that are doing their jobs. [Kendrick] Perkins is a tough guy inside. [Nick] Collison is a guy that just makes their team function well. [Reggie] Jackson is a rising young player that's terrific. Westbrook is Westbrook. Durant's Durant. Their record says what they are."

What's next: The Bulls take on the Thunder in Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. CT.

Asik and Brewer see old colleagues: The Bulls have plenty of connections to the Rockets. Former Bulls swingman Ronnie Brewer spent some time visiting with his old teammates. And ex-Bulls center Omer Asik warmly greeted Chicago reporters on his way out of the Toyota Center after Wednesday’s tilt.

Asik’s name has bounced around in a lot of trade speculation recently, and his former teammates are hoping he lands on his feet.

"I love Omer," said Bulls forward Carlos Boozer. "I don't know the whole situation, obviously not being here, but O's a great dude, a great friend. Was a phenomenal teammate for us. I just wish him the best. I don't know which direction they're going, if they're going to keep him or move him. I don't really have a place to talk about it. But just on a personal level for Omer, I wish the best for him. He's a good dude."

The last word: Boozer, before Wednesday morning's shootaround, on how he's trying to remain positive during the Bulls' recent skid:

"We're going to keep fighting no matter what. That's the makeup of our guys. Each guy in here has been through something where they had to work a little harder to have success. We've got a team full of guys like that. We'll fight through it and hopefully you can see the close games we're coming up short in right now turn into victories. We've had a lot of close losses, and hopefully we can get over the hump."