Bulls overwhelmed by an Oklahoma City storm on a sunny day


Apr 1

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Well, there goes home-court advantage in the NBA Finals. Of course, there goes the Finals if the Bulls play like they did Sunday in a 92-78 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

But don’t always believe what you read. This one could have been by 50 in favor of the Thunder as they basically pulled their team late in the third quarter after leading 80-51.

“It was disappointing,” said Joakim Noah. “Not that any game is more important that others. But, obviously, this was a game between the best team in the East and the best team in the West. It’s more disappointing knowing that. For us to lose like that is bad. But we have to bounce back. They definitely played well, and they definitely played with more energy than we did. I think we’re a better offensive team than we showed. I’m just disappointed.”

Yes, Derrick Rose still was out with his groin injury, his 10th straight and 20th game missed of the season. Rose will not play Monday and it would seem not until next week, though there is no determination yet. Richard Hamilton declared himself ready to go from his shoulder injury. But coach Tom Thibodeau said he decided to hold out Hamilton, who could play Monday against Houston.

“Whatever he wants,” said Hamilton. “We don’t really know what the effect of getting hit is and stuff like that. We did some three-on-three. But I told him I’m comfortable with whatever he wants to do, if we need to shoot more or take more hits. We’re taking it a day at a time. We don’t look at it as being next week or whatever. Hopefully next game.”

But this was as badly as the Bulls have looked this season even if it wasn’t the worst loss as the Bulls reserves had a 27-12 fourth quarter edge to make the game much closer. Too bad it was the kickoff game on national TV on a beautiful, warm, sun drenched day on the plains. For the Bulls, they were basically plain awful.

John Lucas III led the Bulls with 20 points, though 14 in the fourth quarter. Kyle Korver, starting for Ronnie Brewer apparently to get more offense into the game, had 14. The only other Bull in double figures was Taj Gibson with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Russell Westbrook, who had a spectacular facial slam dunk over Omer Asik, had 27 points and Kevin Durant had 26 points and 10 rebounds in dominating the game. Durant was 11 of 16 and looked like he could score anytime they went to him, his size and long arms giving Luol Deng a difficult time. Deng scored eight points but didn’t have an assist or rebound. Noah was one of eight with six rebounds while Carlos Boozer after a nice start had eight points and 10 rebounds. C.J. Watson had just four points and was pulled early.

League leader Serge Ibaka added five blocks, thus forcing the Bulls into way more jump shots and a season low 33.3 percent shooting and season low 20 points in the paint. With Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Durant across the front line, the Bulls were bullied out of the inside and settled for often questionable jump shots and lots of dribbling. They had 17 assists with Lucas and Korver high with four each.

It was a mostly misleading box score as the Bulls led in rebounding, though basically could not get to the offensive boards until the game was decided and led in fast break points even as the Thunder mostly ran out and dunked on them in an opening third quarter burst that had Oklahoma City leading by 20 four minutes into the second half.

The Bulls fell to 42-12, still the best record in the NBA with Oklahoma City 40-12. It was the only game between the teams in the regular season.

“The big thing, they came out, got us back on our heels,” said Thibodeau. “We had problems to start the game, problems at the end of the first quarter, problem at the end of the second quarter, problems to start the third quarter. Against a quality team you can’t overcome that. I always say readiness to play. They were more ready to play that we were. We were playing from behind from the start. You get what you deserve in this league. They beat us in every facet of the game. The only thing I’ll say, the guys who finished the game, they played hard.

“The readiness to play part, that’s on me,” said Thibodeau. “So I’ve got to do a better job of having everyone ready. I thought we had climbed out of a couple of holes. We got down early, came back. Then didn’t close out the first quarter, so it was 27-20. Then the end of the second quarter it was 43-39 with about two minutes to go and we didn’t close that out (down 10 at halftime). You do that on the road against a team like this and that’s all they need. It was too much of a hole to dig out of against a quality opponent like this.

“Obviously we’d prefer to have (Rose),” said Thibodeau. “We have more than enough. I was more concerned with the mental aspect. I thought we made a lot of mental mistakes. You can get beat by a quality opponent when maybe you are not making shots but doing all the things you do well. You can live with that. I didn’t think our defense was very good. When you play like that you basically are beating yourself.”

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