The Bulls played their sixth preseason game on Tuesday at the United Center, but the storylines didn't change a bit.
Their defense is still way ahead of the offense, guard Marco Belinelli hasn't yet found the road map, Vladimir Radmanovic didn't play for the third straight game, and any injury to a Bulls veteran would be bad news.
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Actually, there was an injury during the Bulls' 94-89 victory over Oklahoma City. Kirk Hinrich sat out the second half with a right groin strain. Coach Tom Thibodeau said it was a new injury, not the worsening of a pre-existing condition.
"I don't know how serious it is," Thibodeau said. "If he needs time, he'll get time."
While Nate Robinson filled in at point guard, the other four starters played regular season minutes, all logging between 32 and 37. Thibodeau, meanwhile, was making offensive and defensive substitutions during the final minute.
So this qualified as a dress rehearsal, even if the Thunder decided to give stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook the night off.
You could say Carlos Boozer posted a legitimate 24 points and 12 rebounds, though, since OKC big men Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins did play. Boozer hit 11 of 20 shots from the field and added 5 assists.
"It got physical which is good for us, as we get close to the regular season," Boozer said. "That's how games are going to be. It's going to be chippy. It was light, but it's going to be chippy. It's going to be fun. I thought we stepped up great to the challenge."
Luol Deng added 21 points, while Joakim Noah finished with 15 points and 10 boards. Noah got into the regular-season spirit at one point by jawing with Thunder center Hasheem Thabeet, which drew a response from Perkins on the visiting bench.
"It had a regular season feel to it," Noah said. "I felt like we played pretty hard. It just feels good to get that competitive feeling back. We competed hard and we got better as a group."
This wasn't a great night for the bench. Only two reserves scored for the Bulls -- Robinson (8 points) and Jimmy Butler (5 points). Thibodeau used veteran center Nazr Mohammed only briefly against his former squad.
Belinelli played just 12 minutes and took 1 shot, finishing with no points and 1 assist. Robinson hit 3-of-10 shots, but turned in several nice hustle plays.
Ibaka led the Thunder with 24 points. Shooting guard James Harden added 13 points, while hitting 2-of-17 shots from the field.
"The first half, I liked the way we played offensively," Thibodeau said. "We had a good pace, the ball was hopping. We slowed down, then we started dancing with the ball. You're dancing with the ball, you're going one against five and you're not going to get a good shot. We have to clean that up."
The Bulls (4-2) have one preseason remaining, on Friday against Indiana in South Bend. They'll open the regular season next Wednesday against Sacramento at the UC.