Coming off one of their worst defensive showings in recent memory, the Chicago Bulls now have to regroup in a matchup with one of the NBA’s most dangerous offenses.
The Bulls return home to face the high-scoring Oklahoma City Thunder Thursday in a clash of expected contenders that are both trying to bounce back from disappointing outcomes.
Renowned for its defensive prowess under former coach Tom Thibodeau, Chicago (3-2) delivered easily its worst performance in successor Fred Hoiberg’s brief tenure during Tuesday’s 130-105 loss at previously winless Charlotte. The Bulls surrendered their highest point total in regulation since a 132-108 defeat to Utah on March 9, 2010.
Article continues below ...
The Hornets went 13 of 18 from the field in the first quarter, led by 27 in the second and reached 100 points by the end of the third, the first time Chicago permitted that many through three quarters since 1990. The Bulls also were outrebounded 52-33 and allowed Charlotte to make 14 of 23 from 3-point range.
"It was an individual effort tonight and it seemed as if no one had anybody’s back,” Hoiberg said. ”We didn’t make them make the extra pass. They outrebounded us by 19 and you can go all the way down the line and it just wasn’t there and we have been pretty solid on that end of the floor. They just beat us in all areas tonight.”
There were a few positives to take from the Bulls’ second loss in three games, as Jimmy Butler scored 26 points and Doug McDermott had a career-high 17. The two, along with Aaron Brooks, were a combined 13 of 19 on 3-pointers.
Butler has 23 or more points in three of the last four games but Derrick Rose has been struggling, netting just 18 on 27.6 percent shooting over the past three. The 2011 NBA MVP had four points on 2 of 8 shooting against the Hornets.
Chicago will need an improved effort to slow down a healthy Thunder squad that’s averaging 114.2 points and shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc while sporting two of the league’s most prolific scorers in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Oklahoma City (3-2) enters the United Center after an off night, though, after struggling down the stretch of Wednesday’s 103-98 home loss to unbeaten Toronto. The Thunder went 5 of 20 from the field in the fourth quarter while blowing an eight-point lead with six minutes left.
Westbrook amassed 22 points and 16 assists but was 1 of 8 in the final period and committed eight of the Thunder’s 19 turnovers in Oklahoma City’s second straight loss.
”It’s all correctable stuff,” said Durant, who finished with 27 points and is averaging 29.2 thus far. ”I’m not worried at all. It’s not like we just can’t get a grip on what’s going wrong. We turn the ball over and we foul. That’s the game.”
Westbrook, averaging 28.6 points, had 36 with 11 rebounds as the Thunder earned a 109-100 home victory over Chicago without an injured Durant on March 15, Oklahoma City’s sixth win in the teams’ last seven meetings. He scored 43 in a 108-105 loss at the United Center, where the Bulls have won nine straight dating back to last season, 10 days earlier.