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December 20, 2013

Injury riddled Bulls have no answer for Durant

Thunder still perfect at home

OKLAHOMA CITY — OKLAHOMA CITY —  The NBA is a no-mercy league. With players going down due to injuries all the time, no team feels sorry for another.

The Chicago Bulls witnessed that dynamic again Thursday when they faced the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder. Behind a 32-point effort from Kevin Durant, the Thunder earned a 107-95 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The win enabled the Thunder to tie the 1976-77 Seattle SuperSonics for the franchise record of 13 consecutive home wins to start the season. At 21-4, they also have the best record in the NBA.

"You've got to be humbled and you've got to be grateful for it," Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson said. "I think we've worked hard for it and we're always happy to get as many wins as possible, especially to protect our home court early in the season."

Playing without Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, the Bulls (9-16) did their best to break the Thunder's streak. Each time it looked as if Oklahoma City would pull away, Chicago slowly climbed back into striking distance.

The Bulls whittled a 15-point deficit down to eight with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter.

However, the Bulls had no answer for Durant down the stretch. Time after time, the Bulls left the NBA's leading scorer open on the perimeter, and he made them pay with his 13th 30-point game of the season.

"You have heard it all," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Durant. "What he does is play a good, solid basketball game. He plays the right way. He makes shots all over the floor. He doesn't have to have a certain part of the floor or a certain play. He's one of the best players in the world."

Durant also racked up nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. Russell Westbrook added 20 points and 10 rebounds. Jackson came the bench to score 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Joakim Noah paced the Bulls with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Taj Gibson scored 16 points and D.J. Augustin collected 15 points and five assists. Chicago had six players score in double figures, but it wasn't enough.

"We were just trying to shut down the paint," Jackson said. "That was our main focus at half and I think we did a good job of locking in, getting some stops."

With three of his fellow starters out, Noah took it upon himself to ignite the Bulls' offense. He scored 11 of the team's first 13 points to give Chicago a quick lead.

The Thunder outscored the Bulls 23-9 the rest of the period despite Durant picking up his second technical foul of the season and going to the bench early. Oklahoma City led 35-24 heading into the second quarter.

"When you look at their team, the depth, the way they play, they are so sound on both sides of the ball," Thibodeau said of the Thunder. "They are virtually top five on offense, top five on defense. ... They play so unselfishly on both ends. They play for each other. That's why they are good."

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler suffered a sprained ankle in the second quarter and didn't return. Even so, Chicago trailed just 55-52 at halftime.

"They have some prideful players," Brooks said. "They play hard. They haven't won as many games as they would like. It's hard to win in this league when you have injuries. They've had a lot of them to a lot of very good players. What I like about the team is they will continue to battle and find ways."

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