In a game that was seemingly out-of-control from the opening tip, the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Chicago Bulls 102-72 at Chesapeake Arena in OKC.
The Thunder was paced by Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook–along with a crushing defensive presence that took the Bulls out of rhythm from the outset. The Bulls shot 25-86 from the field, just 29 percent, and also committed 17 turnovers in the contest.
After a sloppy start that appeared as if it may be a defensive battle throughout, the Thunder got things started midway through the first quarter and never looked back. Russell Westbrook picked up baskets in transition, including a monster jam that brought the ‘Peake to its collective feet, and Durant controlled the tempo with big rebounds and efficient free-throw shooting.
The Thunder saw the first half come to a close with a 49-36 lead, due in large part to Durant’s double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) and 13 points from Westbrook. Ibaka also played a big hand in the first half, scoring 8 points and grabbing 8 boards, along with the stellar defense he’s known for.
Chicago shot just 10-48 in the first half, as they fell behind by as many as 19 points. They often looked overmatched, underprepared and a step behind, as the Thunder imposed its will on both ends of the floor. Nate Robinson led the way for the bulls with 10 points, while Joakim Noah was largely ineffective with 4 points on 1/7 shooting.
As the second half began, the Thunder jumped right back on the Bulls as they had in the first. Ibaka opened the scoring with a three-pointer and Chicago fell apart at the seems. This quarter belonged to Kevin Durant, as he cut up the Bulls defense with smooth jump shots and seemed to be making the extra passes to find an open Ibaka, who scored 9 in the quarter. Durant finished the 3rd with 19 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, and would not see the floor again, as the Thunder led 80-56.
With the game already decided, the fourth quarter was an opportunity to see what the Thunder’s bench could do and they did not disappoint. Jeremy Lamb, after taking a flagrant foul from Marco Belinelli, really stood out as he scored 9 points in his first 9 minutes of action. Daniel Orton also showed some promise throughout the frame, and the Thunder cruised to an easy 102-72 win.
Durant was really tonight’s MVP, setting the tone with 19 points, 16 boards and 6 assists. Ibaka finished up with 17 points and 10 boards, and Westbrook wrapped up with 23 points on 10 of 17 shooting. This game was all about defense, and holding the Bulls to 29 percent from the field was more than enough.
KEYS TO THE GAME
While the Bulls are a team without its best player, they still have two all-stars and a barrage of weaponry. The Thunder came out and played tough early, setting the tone for what would be its best defensive performance of the season so far. They contested shots, got back on defense and never relented. Case in point? Nick Collison diving for a loose ball with the team up 25 points.
When facing a player like Joakim Noah, one of the largest tasks is keeping him off the glass. While the first quarter began a little sloppy, the Thunder really tightened up and rebounded the basketball very well. Ibaka had 5 offensive boards himself, and any night you get 16 rebounds from Durant, you obviously feel very good.
As stated above, Chicago is a team playing without its best player. Given the mental slips of the Thunder over the past week and a half, some feared they would come out and take the Bulls too lightly—This was hardly a problem at all. The Thunder played as if Derrick Rose was out there, keeping a high level intensity from the very beginning. This team is near impossible to beat when firing on all cylinders, and tonight played as if they were all on the very same page.
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