By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY —
OKLAHOMA CITY -- For the past two weeks, the Oklahoma City Thunder heard criticism about their defense. Having allowed more than 109 points in four consecutive games will earn that type of attention.
The Thunder got the perfect remedy for their sinking defense when Chicago came to town Sunday night. The Bulls had one of their worst offensive outings of the year, and Oklahoma City rolled to a 102-72 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The 72 points represented the fourth-lowest-scoring output of the season for the Bulls. Chicago shot 29.06 percent from the field, the lowest any shot as shot this year in the NBA.
It was not one of the Bulls finer days as a team, according to coach Tom Thibodeau.
"You have to do what's best for the team, not necessarily what's best for yourself or what you will get for yourself," Thibodeau said. "You can't get stuck in what ever problems you’re having individually. You have to do your job for the team first."
The Thunder's Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting. Kevin Durant tallied 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 10 boards.
Chicago (32-24) had only two players score in double figures. Both Luol Deng and Nate Robinson posted 13 points, but they combined to shoot 8-for-28. The other three starters -- Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton -- scored a total of 15 points.
"We were just aggressive," Westbrook said. "We forced them to miss shots. We did a great job at contesting shots."
Oklahoma City (41-15) didn't play particularly well offensively and had little to do with the Bulls' struggles. Still, the Thunder got the win and stayed within shouting distance of the San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the NBA.
Chicago stuck defensive stopper Deng on Durant from the opening tip, and Deng forced the three-time scoring champion to work for most of his shots early on. Durant was held to four points on 2-for-7 shooting in the opening period.
However, Westbrook and Ibaka picked up the offensive slack for Oklahoma City, which took a 24-16 advantage into second quarter.
Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls' offense has been below average at best this season, but it was even worse Sunday. Players had open shots but were unable to knock them down, including misses on uncontested layups. As a team, Chicago shot 10-for-48 (20.8 percent) in the first half.
Even though Oklahoma City didn't burn the nets up, shooting 41 percent in the first half, it attacked the glass and got to the free-throw line. Durant then got going, and the Thunder took a 49-36 lead into halftime.
"It started with the defense for us," Thabo Sefolosha said. "We have a talented team offensively, got a lot of guys that can do different things. But when we play play this way defensively, I think we're really tough to match."
The margin expanded in the third quarter, when the Bulls managed just three points in the first five minutes. Oklahoma City got out on the break continually for easy dunks.
The Thunder sprinted to a 80-54 lead to end the period and emptied its bench in the fourth.
"The way we competed was embarrassing," Noah said. "Our intensity was bad tonight. It was nothing. We took steps backwards, that's what's frustrating. We've played a lot better this year, so there's really no excuse. We've just got to bounce back ASAP."