From the looks of things early in the fourth quarter, the Thunder were going to roll another one just like the last two: promising at times, but fading late. And that’s pretty much the way it happened. Chicago’s speedy wing twins, Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, certainly had no trouble rolling up the points no matter who got switched onto defending them. Still, OKC erased a ten-point deficit in the final frame to tie it at 90, though the Thunder would never actually get past the Bulls, and Rose, backed up by Pau Gasol, tormented them fiercely in those last few minutes, giving Chicago the win going away, 104-98, dropping OKC to 3-3.
At least they addressed the turnover issue, giving away the rock only nine times, about half the team average. (Then again, the Bulls gave it up only six times, from which OKC was able to score only four points.) Nothing, though, was going to stop Rose, who bounced back from three fairly lousy games to knock down 29 points on the night, twelve of them in the fourth quarter. And while Rose was hitting the point-blank stuff, Butler was hitting the long ball: four out of five for 26. As radio guy Matt Pinto is fond of saying, it’s when you get them, and in the last three minutes, the Thunder weren’t getting them.
Durant + Westbrook = 53 points, two shy of the Rose/Butler combine. And Russell had ten rebounds to go with his 20 points. Then again, there were times that I got the feeling that these two guys hadn’t played much together. (And most of last season, well, no, they didn’t.) The bench wasn’t much help, though Enes Kanter has learned at least some of the rudiments of defense, and while Dion Waiters collected only four points, it took him a mere three shots to get them.
So four games in five days produced three consecutive losses. Not inspiring. It is, of course, still early yet, and by now most of the Thunder’s problems have been on display for all, and by “all” I mean mostly Billy Donovan, to see. Donovan continues to fiddle with the rotation; at some point he’s going to find a combination of five that can pull off something like a 19-2 run. Maybe. One can only hope. The Suns, currently 3-2, will be in OKC on Sunday.