After this opening sentence, I will not use “struggled with his shot,” again for the duration of this recap. Aside from Tony Snell (who was 1-1), every Bull shot poorly tonight. The team as a whole hit a paltry 35% of their shots, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given Chicago’s ineptitude offensively and OKC’s defensive prowess. That being said, this was a one point game with eight minutes or so left in the fourth quarter. That OKC couldn’t figure out that the Westbrook/Durant PnR is unguardable by humans until then is strange, but it matters not. They controlled this game down the stretch and dared the Bulls to hit jumpshots to stay in it. The Bulls, predictably, decline to do so and faded into a defeat.
Despite the woeful shooting, several Bulls ended up in double figures, led Taj Gibson (6-14, 16 points, 7 rebounds). Carlos Boozer (5-13, 12 points, 11 rebounds) chipped in a strong first half. Jimmy Butler (4-12, 13 points), Mike Dunleavy (4-10, 11 points), and DJ Augustin (3-11, 10 points) rounded out the double figure scorers for Chicago, while Joakim Noah (2-8, 9 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists) and Kirk Hinrich (3-12, 8 points) also contributed. The Bulls finished this 6 game home stand at 3-3, with victories over Miami, Houston and Sacramento and defeats at the hands of San Antonio, Memphis, and now Oklahoma City. The Miami victory will likely stick in the craw of writers and fans, both nationally and locally alike, but it seems the Bulls are starting to cool off. They’re still very much in the mix for the third seed, but with how well Toronto continues to play, we could look back at this homestand and lament the Memphis loss, in particular.
The Thunder, on the other hand, were led, once again, by Kevin Durant (11-21, 35 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists) and Russell Westbrook (5-14, 17 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists). Serge Ibaka (6-11, 15 points), Caron Butler (3-8, 12 points), and Reggie Jackson (3-9, 11 points, 5 rebounds) were the major contributors for OKC, who move to a staggering 31 games over .500 at 49-18, good for second place in the West.
The Thunder will have their say when the smoke clears and the conference finals approach, to be sure. Whether or not the Bulls do the same is dependent entirely on the sustainability of their offense from here on out. D.J. Augustin has been wonderful, but games like this, against playoff caliber defense, make one wonder how effective his particular brand of ridiculous shot-making will hold up when everyone, not just the Bulls, is playing like it’s Game 7.
Player(s) of the Game: Taj Gibson.