The Telltale Statistic for tonight is startling: the Bulls scored nothing in six and a half minutes in the fourth quarter, from 10:01 to 3:30. You have to figure that part of Scott Brooks’ pep talk on the plane to Chicago was “You guys remember defense, don’t you?” They did. The lead had changed hands several times before the final 12 minutes, and the Bulls pulled to within one at 76-75 before the Big Shutdown. By the time they broke through with a free throw (Joakim Noah hit one of two), the Thunder had run out to 89-76, and the Bulls wound up at the slaughterhouse, 97-85.
Then again, it wasn’t all defense; OKC, while not shooting particularly well (31-75, 41 percent), actually had some three-point mojo working (13-25, 52 percent), with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Caron Butler each knocking down three treys. (And it didn’t hurt that the Bulls were shooting quite a bit worse: 29-84, 34 percent.) Westbrook, after his rest last night, was up to playing 28 minutes tonight; he came awfully close to a triple-double (17 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) before the reserves came on to mop up. Durant, for his part, knocked out 35 points and collected 12 boards; Butler led the bench with 12, though Reggie Jackson was right behind with 11. And this was one of those nights when Serge Ibaka was more of a factor for the offense, scoring 15 on 6-11 while retrieving a modest four caroms and swatting only twice.
Any of the Bulls could score, assuming any of the Bulls could score, if you know what I mean: five of them Thibs only played nine men hit double figures, led by Taj Gibson, coming off the bench with 16. The picture of frustration, if you’re looking for one, had to be Kirk Hinrich, who in 32 minutes connected on three shots (out of 12) and collected five fouls. Carlos Boozer, in just 24 minutes, came up with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls’ only double-double; Noah, had he made that one foul shot, would have had another.
Revenge game coming up Thursday night against the Cavaliers, followed by, well, another revenge game Friday against the Raptors. Westbrook will be out for one of them.