Thunder Smother Bulls With Strong Defensive Performance

Monday, February 25th 2013, 12:34 am
By: News 9

The Chicago Bulls came into Oklahoma City as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA this season. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City's recent struggles have been predicated mainly on a lack of effort on the defensive end.

For one night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, those roles were reversed.

The Thunder used a stalwart defensive effort to hold the Bulls to 29.1 percent shooting, an NBA season-low, in a 102-72 thumping Sunday night.

OKC was able to produce a blowout victory despite an off night from Kevin Durant. The NBA's leading scorer hit just 6-of-19 from the field and didn't play a minute in the fourth quarter. He scored just 19 points, but also grabbed 16 rebounds and dished out six assists.

Russell Westbrook led the Thunder with 23 points while Serge Ibaka had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

Nate Robinson and Luol Deng led the Bulls with 13 points each, but combined to shoot just 8-for-28 from the field.

The defense was solid throughout the entire game. Oklahoma City allowed 16 points in the first quarter, 20 in the second and 18 in the third and fourth quarters. The Bulls shot 4-of-18 from 3-point range, and a season-low 20.8 percent in the first half.

While the Thunder's defense was tenacious the whole game, the offense took a little bit of time to get going. The Thunder struggled out of the gate, turning the ball over 12 times in the first half. Westbrook had several run-ins with the officials, drawing a technical foul halfway through the first quarter and spending almost the entirety of a Chicago possession sitting on the opposite baseline after he clearly thought he was fouled on a drive to the bucket.

However, with the change in quarters came a change in attitude for Westbrook and the Thunder.

A massive tomahawk jam from the point guard made the score 29-20 in favor of OKC and kick-started a 19-7 run for the Thunder that opened up a 46-27 lead. The Bulls closed the gap at the end of the quarter, rattling off nine straight points before an old-fashioned three-point play from Thabo Sefolosha stopped the bleeding and gave OKC a 49-36 lead at the break.

The onslaught continued in the third quarter, as the Thunder opened the period on a 12-3 run to open up a 22-point lead and force Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to call for time. It didn't help, as shots continued to miss for Chicago and kept falling for OKC. By the end of the third quarter, the Thunder led 80-54 and most fans were heading home to prepare for Snowpocalypse 2013.

Oklahoma City has now won back-to-back games after losing three straight and is back home against New Orleans Wednesday night. Tip time is set for 7 p.m.