Monday, February 25, 2013 12:17 am
Thunder's D back to form in 102-72 rout of Bulls
By JEFF LATZKEAP Sports Writer
The Thunder, who had allowed an average of 113 points over their previous four games, broke out of a rough defensive patch by limiting Chicago to 29.1 percent shooting.
The Bulls also had their worst shooting performance of last season in Oklahoma City, when they connected on just 33 percent. Midway through the third quarter, Chicago had missed 44 of its 55 shots and was on pace for the worst shooting night in franchise history.
The Thunder led 61-39 at that point, and the margin reached 32 with both teams' starters sitting out the fourth quarter.
Nate Robinson and Luol Deng had 13 points apiece to lead Chicago.
Durant had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists and Ibaka had 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks as Oklahoma City won its second straight after losing three in a row for the first time this season. The Thunder also had the previous best defensive performance of the season by holding Charlotte to 29.11 percent shooting in a 114-69 blowout in November.
Chicago's final percentage of 29.06, on 25 for 86 shooting, was a smidgen worse. Carlos Boozer had just two points, making one of his five shots, and Joakim Noah had eight points and nine rebounds. The Bulls came in as the third-lowest scoring team in the NBA and ranked 23rd in shooting percentage.
Curiously, the Bulls also are responsible for the best shooting percentage by a team this season - making 63.8 percent against Cleveland in November.
Each of the Thunder's previous four opponents had made at least 46 percent from the field against a team that prides itself on being among the NBA's best defenses - in addition to being the highest-scoring team. Oklahoma City was able to avoid giving up at least 100 points in a fifth straight game for the first time since January 2011.
The Bulls had a match-up problem from the beginning with former MVP Derrick Rose (knee) and replacement Kirk Hinrich (elbow) both out, leaving the 5-foot-9 Robinson to man the point against the All-Star Westbrook.
But the real problem was on the offensive end.
Chicago spent most of the first half shooting less than 20 percent from the field but stayed in the game by forcing the Thunder into turnovers. Oklahoma City created some cushion with an 8-0 run featuring transition layups by Westbrook and Thabo Sefolosha to go up 46-27 with 2 minutes left before halftime.
The Bulls answered back with their highest-scoring stretch of the half, piecing together nine straight points - seven on free throws - to get back within 10 before Sefolosha's three-point play made it 49-36 at halftime.
Oklahoma City then used a 16-4 run highlighted by Westbrook's soaring right-handed slam to go up 68-34 midway through the third quarter.
Notes: Ronnie Brewer, acquired by Oklahoma City in a trade deadline deal with New York on Thursday, attended the game but did not play against his former Bulls teammates. "When I was in Chicago, it was a close-knit group. We thought we were so close to winning a championship," Brewer said. Thunder coach Scott Brooks said he still hasn't figured out how Brewer will fit into the team's rotation. Brewer has played on teams that appeared in 10 playoff series, winning five. "This team has been able to go really far in the playoffs, had some success," Brewer said. "I think those guys understand a play here, a play there, can be the difference between winning and losing - and winning a championship." ... Chicago was not called for a foul in the first quarter. Oklahoma City had only two, one on offense. Each team then got whistled for 10 in the second. ... Bulls reserve Taj Gibson sprained his left knee in the fourth quarter and did not return. ... Chicago's franchise-worst shooting percentage is 23.4 in a game against Miami in 1999.