Thunder 102, Bulls 72

The Oklahoma City Thunder went from being disappointed in their
defense to making the Chicago Bulls embarrassed about their
offense.

Russell Westbrook scored 23 points, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka
both contributed double-doubles and the Thunder held Chicago to the
worst shooting performance in the NBA this season, beating the
Bulls 102-72 on Sunday night.

The Thunder, who had allowed an average of 113 points over their
previous four games, broke out of a rough defensive patch by
limiting Chicago to 29.1 percent shooting.

”We made them miss tonight. We got a hand up, we clogged the
paint. We just made the second and third efforts, and once we do
that, we’re a pretty good defensive team,” Durant said.

The Bulls also had their worst shooting performance of last
season in Oklahoma City, when they connected on just 33 percent,
but this one was far worse. Midway through the third quarter,
Chicago had missed 44 of its 55 shots and was on pace for the worst
shooting night in franchise history.

”The way we competed was just embarrassing,” said Joakim Noah,
who had eight points and nine rebounds. ”The way we competed was
bad.

”It’s not time to feel sorry for ourselves.”

Durant had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists, and Ibaka had
17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as Oklahoma City won its
second straight after losing three in a row for the first time this
season. The Thunder also had the previous best defensive
performance of the season by holding Charlotte to 29.11 percent
shooting in a 114-69 blowout in November.

Chicago’s final percentage of 29.06, on 25 for 86 shooting, was
a smidgen worse.

”We did a lot of good things, but at the same time, it’s the
NBA. Maybe they had a night off or something like this,” Oklahoma
City defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha said. ”Credit to the way we
prepared this game mentally, the way we came out, but at the same
time, we can’t see ourselves as too good.

”We did a lot of good things but we’ve got to keep it up.”

Nate Robinson, who was 2 for 14 from the field, and Luol Deng
had 13 points apiece to lead Chicago. Carlos Boozer had just two
points, making one of his five shots. Curiously, the Bulls also are
responsible for the best shooting percentage by a team this season
– making 63.8 percent against Cleveland in November.

”You have to do what’s best for the team, not necessarily
what’s best for yourself to get yourself going,” said Bulls coach
Tom Thibodeau said, blaming his team for taking the wrong shots and
having a quick trigger. ”You can’t get stuck in whatever problems
you’re having individually. You have to do your job for the team
first.”

The Bulls played without point guards Derrick Rose (knee) and
Kirk Hinrich (elbow) and went with the 5-foot-9 Robinson at the
point against Westbrook, an All-Star. Their offense never got
going.

”We’ve got enough. We have to do our jobs. We’ve shown when we
do that, we’re capable of beating anyone,” Thibodeau said. ”We
have to be mentally tougher, we have to be stronger. When you face
a little bit of adversity with whatever, when you’re short-handed,
you have to dig down and get the job done.”

Noah said no matter who’s on the court, the execution has to be
better.

Chicago spent most of the first half shooting less than 20
percent from the field but stayed in the game by forcing the
Thunder into turnovers. Oklahoma City created some cushion with an
8-0 run featuring transition layups by Westbrook and Sefolosha to
go up 46-27 with 2 minutes left before halftime.

The Bulls answered back with their highest-scoring stretch of
the half, piecing together nine straight points – seven on free
throws – to get back within 10 before Sefolosha’s three-point play
made it 49-36 at halftime.

Oklahoma City then used a 16-4 run highlighted by Westbrook’s
soaring right-handed slam to go up 68-34 midway through the third
quarter.

”I thought the defense was OK in the first half. Our offense
hurt us. I thought we had a shot to get back in it at the end of
the second quarter. We started off the third quarter with low
energy, tough shots, no defense and game over,” Thibodeau
said.

Each of the Thunder’s previous four opponents had made at least
46 percent from the field against a team that prides itself on
being among the NBA’s best defenses – in addition to being the
highest-scoring team. Oklahoma City was able to avoid giving up at
least 100 points in a fifth straight game for the first time since
January 2011.

”It’s a long season and anything can happen,” Ibaka said.
”The most important (thing) for us is every time when we’ve lost
our defensive mindset, we know that it’s not our basketball, so we
try to get it back every time.”

Notes: Ronnie Brewer, acquired by Oklahoma City in a trade
deadline deal with New York on Thursday, attended the game but did
not play against his former Bulls teammates. ”When I was in
Chicago, it was a close-knit group. We thought we were so close to
winning a championship,” Brewer said. Thunder coach Scott Brooks
said he still hasn’t figured out how Brewer will fit into the
team’s rotation. … Bulls reserve Taj Gibson sprained his left
knee in the fourth quarter and did not return. … Chicago’s
franchise-worst shooting percentage is 23.4 in a game against Miami
in 1999.