The streak ends: Thunder 98, Bulls 85

Last season, the Oklahoma City Thunder went 23-59. That was the fourth-worst record in the entire NBA, ahead of only the Kings (17-65), Clippers (19-63) and Wizards (19-65). As of last night’s win over the Bulls in the United Center, the Thunder are 19-15.

What many people may not yet realize about this young squad is that they have become a top-notch defensive unit. Seriously. They rank 9th in Forced Turnovers Per Game (15.3), 8th in Defensive Efficiency (101.3 Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions), and 4th in Blocked Shots Per Game (6.0). Moreover, their opponents convert only 59 percent of their shots at the rim. That’s the 9th best mark in the league, which is especially impressive since their opponents attempt the fourth-most shots at the rim per game (29.4).

I bring all this up because the Thunder won last night because they shut the Bulls down in the second half, holding them to only 33 points in the final 24 minutes. The key was the third quarter, when Oklahoma City outscored Chicago 32-14. And they did that by protecting the rim. Like, with a vengeance. The Bulls were getting into the paint at will, but they could not convert. Chicago missed an astonishing 13 layups and tip shots in that third quarter, five of which were blocked.

For the game, the Bulls missed an astounding 29 of 53 shots at the rim. The Thunder basically built a brick wall around the basket. It really was an impressive display of interior defense…unfortunately.

And make no mistake: every missed layup seemed to suck the life out of the Bulls, especially on defense. They were a step slow in their rotations, and the Thunder made them pay for it. Rookie James Harden drilled three three-pointers in a three-minute stretch that spanned the end of the fourth quarter and the beginning of the fourth. Those were game-breakers. Chicago was down only 70-62 before Harden hit his first triple. By the time he knocked down number three, the Bulls were behind 82-66.

That may as well have been the game. The Bulls are not good enough offensively — 29th in Offensive Efficiency — to play catchup against good defensive teams, especially when they’re rattled. And the Thunder’s defense definitely had them rattled. Plus, Oklahoma City made every hustle play in the second half. By the numbers, the Bulls had a huge advantage on the offensive boards (25-13), but the Thunder grabbed nine of their offensive rebounds in the second half. And every one of them was significant.

The Bulls also got next to nothing out of their bench. Chicago’s reserves scored only 12 points on 5-for-27 shooting. Tyrus Thomas returned to form, going 3-for-12 from the field. Nine of his shots were jumpers, and seven of them were 16-23 feet away from the basket. At one point, he tried to make a complicated one-on-one move and got picked clean by Nick Collison.

In the final analysis, the Bulls simply got outplayed, outhustled and shut down defensively by a better team. And, for all the fun of that four-game win streak, it’s pretty clear they are still very much a work in progress.

Former Bull Factor:
You may remember Thabo Sefolosha as the player who almost got DNP-CD’d out of the league as a token member of the Bulls. But his career has been revived in Oklahoma City, and last night he had a nice little revenge game against his former team: 7 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocked shots, and some amped up defense against D-Rose in what turned out to be the decisive third quarter. Sefolosha held Rose to 0-for-4 shooting in that quarter, which completely disrupted Chicago’s offense.

TrueHoop Network:
Royce of Daily Thunder: “If I weren’t looking at the score every six seconds, I would have thought Oklahoma City trailed by at least 15 points in the third quarter. Chicago was absolutely pounded the Thunder on the glass (11 offensive rebounds in the third quarter) and just appeared to be abusing OKC. But the Thunder was actually ahead four. And actually had complete control of the game. In the second half, the Thunder held the Bulls to just 33 points. That’s 14 in the third, 19 in the fourth. Meanwhile, OKC scored 51 in the second half. That right there people, is a good formula to winning.”

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.

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6 Responses to The streak ends: Thunder 98, Bulls 85

  1. usmcroc22@msn.com'
    Rocky January 5, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    If I were a fan that was not routing for this team I would of said that there was a lot of missed shots in that third quarter that should of been turned into free throw attempts. I don’t know how many times I saw D-Rose take it to the basket and got beat up inside. C’mon now the kid only had one free throw attempt. He should of had at least 10 from what I saw. Deng got hacked a few times. Yes the bulls could of played better defense but when your not getting obvious foul calls on numerous occasions it affects your game. Durant should of been fouled out the game. Sefolosha should of had at least 4 fouls and ended up with none. Thabo practically tore dengs risk off and tackled Taj and there was no call. The refs gave OKC every opportunity to comeback and take control of this game and took away easy points that the bulls should of had. Was does D-Rose have to do to get some respect. He’s not as vocal as Wade, Lebron, and Kobe and doesn’t cry every time down the court. These refs are taking advantage of that and are hurting this kids style of play.

  2. bob.edwards47@yahoo.com'
    Boppinbob January 5, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    Rocky, unfortunately D. Rose is paying his dues in the league, like most young players have to while establishing themselves as stars. His time will come, as will the Bulls if they keep making solid player moves and let the young players develop. It is not the time to play win now at all cost. This team is still building and seems to be finally making progress.

  3. PTFC January 5, 2010 at 9:41 pm #

    I don’t expect the Bulls to go on 5+ winning streaks often and losing is “okay”. But I hate how the bulls lose. The Bulls never go down fighting and competing. Win they win they win impressively but when they lose they lose really ugly. The Thunder is a solid team (the days of them being horrible are over for now), so the fact the Bulls lost to them is okay I just wish they would lose while playing well but the other team just played that much better. For the Bulls when it rain it pours. For example the Bulls probably will win tonight and look awesome, 5 people in double figures, Noah and Thomas being rebounding beast, Gibson blocking shots and Hinrich actually hitting 3’s, but then look horrible the next two games against the Bucks and the T’wolves and lose. I don’t understand the inconsistency. They beat the Cavs, Spurs, and Magic (how many teams can say they beat those 3 teams?) but then lost to the Nets and Knicks. *Scratching head*.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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