Thunder suffocate the Bulls, 102-72

BOX SCORE

With a winter storm supposedly set to roll in to Oklahoma City tonight, apparently it hit the Chicago Bulls a few hours early. Because they were ice cold.

(See what I did there? So good, right?)

Seriously though, “inept” isn’t even a good enough word for the Bulls’ offensive performance tonight. By quarter: 6-30, 4-18, 7-20, 8-18. For a grand total of 25-86 from the field, or a 29.1 percent. The Thunder’s defense has been a question as of late as they’ve allowed four straight teams to score better than 105 points. They went to the other extreme tonight, allowing the Bulls just 72.

“Defensively, it was probably as good as we’ve played in the last five or six weeks,” Scott Brooks said.

Now, before you start being impressed, realize the Bulls are a very weak offensive team and were playing without Kirk Hinrich who, yes, actually matters quite a lot to them offensively. Still, 72 points on 29.1 percent shooting is 72 points on 29.1 shooting. Officially, it’s the lowest percentage (actually 29.06 percent) from any team this season topping 29.11, which the Bobcats put up against… the Thunder.

“I thought they did miss some shots, but I thought we made them miss a lot of shots,” Brooks said. “I’m not going to give all of the credit to us, but we did play hard on that end of the floor. We made them miss a lot of shots, but they did have an off-shooting night. There’s games you might have better defensive execution and they still shoot better percentage than 29.”

There was an apparent defensive edge to the Thunder though, especially early. Kendrick Perkins was especially active both in the pick-and-roll and on the boards. Kevin Durant, very assertive on the glass (16 rebounds in 32 minutes, two off a career-high). Russell Westbrook was very Russell Westbrook-ish, exploding to the rim and dicing up Chicago’s defense (23 points, 10-17 shooting). The Thunder clearly took tonight’s game a little more personally, seeing as their recent standard of performance had slipped some lately.

For Durant, he caught some of what the Bulls were having though. An usual cold night for KD who went just 6-19 from the floor, but again, chipped in with 16 boards and six assists.

“I wish I could’ve made more shots, but sometimes that’s the name of the game,” Durant said. “I just tried to do everything else for the team to win. Just try to lock in on the defensive end and help out on the rebounding end. Wish I could have made shots but hey, gotta keep working and hopefully I get that thing back and be ready for next game.”

Durant did appear to “get that thing back” late in the third as he hit a vicious step-back jumper over Joakim Noah that he let him know about all the way down the floor. As Durant back-pedaled, he said very clearly said “step-back” right at Noah. Then he hit another pull-up a couple possessions later as he started to cook. That put the Thunder up 32 though, so Durant’s night was basically over at that moment. For shame, because it was about to get fun.

Obviously the Bulls are wounded, but they are still a top Eastern team, despite not having Derrick Rose. And with the lull the Thunder hit last week, they have responded extremely well in these to recent games. There’s a necessity to really start the process of cranking up for the stretch run not just for seeding purposes, but to make sure you’re playing at a level you’re happy with going into the postseason. The Thunder have really lacked as of late on the defensive end, and whether or not it was more bad Chicago offense or great OKC defense, the fact is, they played better.

NOTES:

  • The 29.06 percent is also the lowest opponent field goal percentage of the OKC era.
  • The power of Thibs was on full display in the first half. Despite the Bulls shooting abysmally from the floor, they weren’t completely dead even late into the first half.
  • Joakim Noah: “The way we competed was embarrassing … It starts with myself. I’ve got to play better. Everyone needs to look themselves in the mirror. We’ve had a tough stretch right now. It’s very humbling to lose like that.”
  •  The Bulls terrible shooting was something, but the fact they attempted 30 shots in the first quarter and 48 at halftime was impressive.
  • Perk was again very solid. Extremely active, very energetic, super intense. He obviously was amped up about the matchup with Noah. Eight rebounds and two blocks in 25 minutes. Very solid.
  • Two straight games started with catch-and-shoot knockdown 3s from Russell Westbrook. And two straight wins. Key to success?
  • KD recorded a double-double in the first half, the third time he’s done that this season. He’d only done that once in his career before this year.
  • Tom Thibodeau on Durant’s tough shooting night: “It says a lot about him. Scott has done a great job with this team. Durant didn’t have a great shooting night, and he missed some shots he normally makes. But what he did do, he went to another area. That’s how you help your team win. That’s critical. The nights in which you don’t shoot the ball like you normally do, you do other things to help your team win. You set your teammates up, you rebound the ball, and play great defense, and that’s what he’s doing. He’s showing what a complete player he is.”
  • You haven’t heard someone curse until you hear Tom Thibodeau do it while objecting to a call. It’s next level cursing.
  • I was a big fan of Kevin Martin’s unabashed, obvious attempt to stat-pad with the scrubs to start the fourth quarter. Didn’t work out for him though as he went just 1-5 for five points in 2o minutes.
  • Reggie Jackson, continuing to look strong.
  • Serge Ibaka had a mini bust-out performance — 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes. He was very involved offensively, keyed in defensively and extremely active on the offensive boards. More please.
  • Not strong garbage minutes for Perry Jones III. I continue to like him though.
  • Pregame in OKC’s locker room was showing Chicago’s recent game against the Hornets and there was an Anthony Davis fastbreak dunk that earned a rewind and a loud “Day-am!” from Russell Westbrook.
  • Something I didn’t get from Thibodeau: With the offense obviously terrible, while not use Daequan Cook earlier to try and find a 3-point spark?
  • What an emotional return for Nazr Mohammed. It’s like a couple of people kind of remembered him. Hey who is that guy? Did he play for us one time?
  • The best part about this game were the 12 consecutive garbage time minutes for Jeremy Lamb. He had nine points on 2-3 shooting, but I found myself wanting him to shoot every possession. Kid is so smooth. These type of games remind me to be somewhat excited about him.
  • KD was riding Bennett Salvatore pretty good for a foul call in the second half and Scott Brooks actually said, “Let it go KD” as Durant ran by. Durant of course, did not let it go.
  • Gabe Ikard was back courtside tonight, this time with his buddy Blake Bell. If he smack-talked Carlos Boozer tonight, it worked.
  • That play in the second quarter where Westbrook passed to Perk who was completely looking the other way.
  • Nobody strutsnarls after a dunk like Russell Westbrook. NOBODY.
  • Nate Robinson. Remember that?

Next up: Home against the Hornets on Wednesday.

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