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February 25, 2013

Thunder take Bulls by the horns

OKLAHOMA CITY — For the past two weeks, Oklahoma City has been criticized about its defense. Having allowed more than 109 points in four straight games will earn that type of attention.

The Thunder got the perfect remedy for their sinking defense when Chicago came to town Sunday. The Bulls had one of their worst offensive outings of the year as Oklahoma City rolled to a 102-72 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Chicago (32-24) had only two starters in double figures. Both Luol Deng and Nate Robinson posted 13 points each and combined to shoot 8-for-28. Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Richard Hamilton combined to score 15 points in the loss.

The 72 points is the fourth-lowest scoring output of the season for the Bulls as they shot only 29.06 percent from the field, which is the lowest any team has shot this year in the NBA.

The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting. Kevin Durant tallied only 19 points, but racked up 16 rebounds and six assists. Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 10 boards.

Oklahoma City (41-15) didn’t play particularly well offensively and had little to do with the Bulls’ struggles. But they got the win and stayed within shouting distance of the conference-leading San Antonio Spurs for the best record in the NBA.

Chicago stuck defensive stopper Deng on Durant from the opening tip. He 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 as they took a 24-16 advantage into the second quarter.

Without Derrick Rose, the Bulls’ offense has been below average, at best, this season. On Sunday, it was even more substandard. Players had open shots, but were unable to knock them down. That included blowing uncontested layups. As a team, Chicago shot 10 for 48 (20.8 percent) in the first half.

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