Game one: Thunder 106, Bulls 95

In yesterday’s preview post, I said:

“The Bulls must contain Kevin Durant as best they can (good luck, Luol), while keeping KD and his teammates off the free throw line. It’s also imperative that they take care of the ball and crash the defensive glass. Outside of Durant, the Thunder rely on points off turnovers and second-chance points to generate offense.”

How did that turn out for the Bullies?

Well, Durant (30 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals) was not contained. And the Thunder definitely weren’t kept off the line, as they went a nearly unthinkable 38-for-47 from the charity stripe (including 11-for-13 for Durant). The Bulls gave up only 9 offensive boards, but they surrendered 18 points off 15 turnovers.

Defense was a problem.

That may seem hard to believe considering the fact that Chicago held Oklahoma City to 41 percent shooting, including 22 percent (4-for-18) from downtown. But the Thunder — thanks in no small part to their astronomical free throw total — finished the game with an Offensive Rating of 107.2 points per 100 possessions.

Compare that to Chicago’s O-Rating of 96.1 and you can see that offense was a problem as well. It wasn’t that much of a problem through the first three quarters. The game was tied at 82-82 after three and it sure seemed as if the Bulls were in position to steal a game on the road.

Then things fell apart.

Derrick Rose and crew were outscored 24-13 in the final 12 minutes as the offense devolved so badly I half-wondered if Vinny Del Negro was patrolling the sidelines in a Tom Thibodeau costume. When the Bulls weren’t turning the ball over or bailing out with long jump shots, they were missing chippies or having the ball swatted away by an aggressive Oklahoma City defense that finished with 10 blocked shots and 11 steals.

The Bulls looked intimidated. They also looked out of gas.

The latter was certainly true of Rose. He finished with a team-high 28 points to go along with 6 assists and 4 rebounds, but he went 4-for-16 in the second half and scored only 4 points in the final 21 minutes. Derrick tried to take over in the fourth, but he was running on empty. It didn’t help that Rose was hampered by foul trouble, which got him out of rhythm. But still.

Joakim Noah (18 points, 19 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks) and Taj Gibson (16 points, 11 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals) both had strong games, but they don’t really generate offense in a pinch. Deng (13 points, 5-for-13, 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers) was eaten alive by Durant and looked every bit like the third or fourth option everybody says he is. Meanwhile, the reserves went 7-for-20, including 0-for-4 from downtown.

And did I mention that the Bulls missed nine foul shots?

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. Chicago won the rebounding batte 50-44 (including 15-9 on the offensive glass) and outscored Oklahoma City 50-40 in the paint. The latter number is telling when you consider the fact that the Thunder led the league in blocked shots last season.

But the Bulls collapsed in the fourth and the offense ran like something out of the infamous VDN playbook.

Said Thibodeau: “You can’t have blown sets in the fourth quarter. I think that’s where you have to be at your best. You have to be able to execute under pressure, and we’ll do better. We have to do better.”

This game was a prime example of why the Bulls need Carlos Boozer back as soon as possible. Simply put, without a second legitimate scoring option, there’s too much pressure on Rose to do everything. That’s a lot to ask against a really good defensive team like the Thunder, even for somebody as good as Rose.

Durant didn’t do it alone. Russell Westbrook (28 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists) lit things up, going 8-for-15 from the field and 12-for-13 at the line. Oklahoma City had a one-two punch on offense. The Bulls — in the fourth quarter anyway — had one swing and a miss. Lots of misses actually.

Look, the Thunder are a good team that was playing at home in a season opener and Chicago was a team missing its second-best scorer. The loss makes sense.

It also makes me think that this opening stretch without Boozer could get messy.

Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.


17 Responses to Game one: Thunder 106, Bulls 95

    Tony C. October 28, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Obviously the Bulls will be a work in progress for the next several months, so there is no need to panic. However, there were some aspects of this game that should, and hopefully will be quickly addressed and corrected by Thibodeau.

    First, even without Boozer, the Bulls can’t afford to fall into the ‘clear out and stand around while Derrick plays one-on-three’ offense. Not only will it fail more often than not, but it runs counter to the team basketball that Thibodeau is (or certainly should be) emphasizing. For the Bulls to overachieve this year – and I believe that they can – they must play superior team ball.

    Next, if I were Thibodeau, I would call Watson into my office and basically tell him that I never, ever want to see him drive, leave his feet, and then look for a player to pass the ball to again. He committed that cardinal sin at least twice at crucial moments last night, and there is no excuse for it. I’d be pissed if a high school player did that repeatedly.

    The Bulls were also, as a team, very sloppy with their passing. That has be eliminated, or we can forget about overachieving. I do expect the turnovers to be reduced significantly, but it was painful to watch, especially as so many of the turnovers were predictable.

    One of my personal pet peeves is excessive missed free throws. Now, there may be only so much that a head coach can do about it, but I am already tired of seeing the likes of Noah and Gibson miss pairs of free throws at a time.

    Having said all of that, it was nice to see Taj back to his solidly useful best, Noah showed again how valuable he is (and what an idiot Jeff van Gundy is for suggesting that he should have been traded for Melo), and Rose showed yet again that he is the strongest and best finishing guard in basketball when driving to the basket.

  2. Super Joe October 28, 2010 at 12:53 pm #

    I was very disapointed by the Bulls play in the 4th quarter and the officiating throughout. I know you can’t blame the refs for everything, but there were some blatant calls given to OKC. Bulls need Boozer on the floor for some offense.

  3. Inception October 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    so many new faces on this team…they just need to get a feel for each other….and once boozer comes back, they will have to adjust once again…post all-star break is when things should get rolling.

    remember, you have to be patient with the bulls/jazz merger…jk.

    i’m still hoping the nuggets will give in and trade melo for deng & gibson….dream come true.

    Chuck October 28, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    I would argue that Durant was as contained as possible. He was 9-24 from the field and was more or less kept off the boards. The Bulls were in the game until about 3 or so minutes to go. Then teh Thunder buckled down on D and the Bulls melted on offense. The Bulls D was very good in the 3rd and 1/2 of the 4th quarters.
    Considering that this was a game between two teams that will win around 50 games, they did fine. When Boozer comes back it will give them a stabilizing force in the post who can get them buckets when they need them.

    cavendish October 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    I hate whiners and ref grinders. I’m all for the new rules against excessive complaining to the refs, but tonight exposed the big flaw in the new rules. Superstars (KD) can still do it without getting a tech and in games where the refs clearly need to be reminded they need to make the calls on both sides (47 free throws!!) there is no recourse for the visiting team.

    I know, the Thunder are supposed to “break-out” this season and it’s their home opener, but PLEASE try to call it evenly. A FT differential of 47-22 is just a tad lopsided and makes for a difficult game to win.

  6. TBF October 28, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

    I watched the second half and Durant got at *least* 4 trips to the line that he didn’t deserve at all. I’m not saying it was crooked, but geeze, the guy gets to the line on every play.

    That said, the Bulls need to play more disciplined. When Rose has the ball, everyone else just kind of stands around, watching. That’s gotta stop. Fouling jump shooters…that’s gotta stop. The bench has to step up a little more. And what was with the total meltdown in the last 3 minutes? The Bulls looked dead on their feet!

    Sloppy ending; that’s one we should have won.

  7. Anonymous October 28, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    Typical disappearing act from L. Deng in 4th quarter of a close game. Even with Boozer, Bulls still need another threat on the perimeter who has ability to create own shot.

  8. Mahmoud October 28, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    You can’t expect an even free throw total when one team is being more aggressive than the other.

    Savage October 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    I agree with Mahmoud, we need to be more aggressive out there. We need more free throws! D Rose seems to be avoiding too much contact. I know we don’t want him hurt but he is the best on our team at driving so he needs a couple of extra trips to the line a night. Also, a disappointing night for Brewer he needs to take it hard to the whole more often as well.

    Savage October 28, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    I meant hole not “whole” my bad

    cgonzo October 28, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    I saw positives and negatives in last night’s season opener vs. the Thunder. First the negatives: If Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah are going to see major minutes, they have become better free throw shooters. Missing two free throws in the fourth quarter of a close game is a back breaker. I also was not impressed with the play of C.J. Watson or Keith Bogans.

    Now the positives: Derrick Rose is making the case as the best PG in the league so Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Steve Nash better step up their game. I also was impressed with the offensive fire power without Carlos Boozer. The Bulls stood toe-to-toe with a talented Thunder team. When Boozer returns from injury, this team has the offense to run with the Heat, Magic and Celtics.

    There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I saw a lot of things that showed me the Bulls can make a run at a 7th championship banner.

    zillaa October 28, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    Eh only one game, that’s what I say. Actually, despite the surprisingly nice offensive numbers for 3 quarters, for whatever reason I spent the second half thinking “the Thunder actually seem like they’re dominating us and….we’re up by four???”

    I thought the Thunder really played a good game last night and the Bulls didn’t, but they were still in it until the end. Now let’s just hope they don’t have a bad game every game, like the Bears o-line seems to do.

    BullsfanNJ October 28, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    We need RUDY…Ronnie Brewer looks terrible out there.

    inkybreath October 28, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    In the end, it did look like a team that played almost every game of the last year together vs. a bunch of guys getting used to each other. Once a rhythm sets in, we will see better results.

    Also, Rose established that he is house money at the rim – in dynamic fashion. The opponents will key on that and guys will get open shots, big men will close & lose position on Noah & Gibson, and when a guy is lightning – you have to stop the ball early and that leaves space.

    Still lots of things for Thibs to work with…

    luvabullnj October 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Ok. So we have established what not to do in the fourth quarter. Lesson(s) learned, hopefully. Maybe Thibbs should have saved voice for the real season.

    How did we have a much more rigorous pre-season and yet have players run out of gas in the fourth quarter of the first game of the season? Does not add up.


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