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.