The Chicago Bulls might have one of the best defenses in the NBA, which means making life as bit difficult for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but not hard enough as Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook had another excellent game en route to a 97-85 win.
Watching the Bulls wearing green is always slightly painful on the eyes, but they have to celebrate St. Patrick’s day somehow besides coloring their rivers green. So Chicago were able to hold on for three quarters until the Thunder broke away. Still, Chicago narrowed down that lead to 76-75 in the middle of the fourth quarter. However, from that moment, the Durant-Westbrook pick & roll became too difficult for Chicago to stop, and the Thunder, through a combination of good basketball and some individual brilliance, set themselves apart for the rest of the game.
Kevin Durant finished with 32 points on 11-of-21 from the field, adding 12 rebounds and 5 assists. He now has scored 25 points or more in 32 consecutive games, the outright second longest streak in the history of the NBA. No one is going to be surprised if he makes it to Jordan’s 40 from the 1986-1987 season. Russell Westbrook wasn’t as accurate (5-of-14 from the field), but still finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists, while Serge Ibaka helped out with 15 points.
The problem for the Bulls was Kirk Hinrich (or anyone else) not being able to even slow down Westbrook. He penetrated at will towards the basket, and the whole ability of the Bulls to make it difficult for teams to score against them with comfortable shots was ruined. They did handle the Thunder’s shooting and spacing rather well (41.3% from the field), but not well enough, not to mention their own offensive issues, once against exposed with a terrible performance: 34.5% from the field, 22.7% from beyond the arc, wasting a rare five turnover game.
The Bulls were led by Taj Gibson scoring 16 points and pretty much forcing his way to the Thunder’s rim during the Bulls’ comeback minutes. Joakim Noah almost made it a triple double again: Nine points, nine rebounds and 12 assists. Still, everything on the Bulls’ offense was SO slow and hard, especially when it came to creating open shots on the outside, it would have been quite a shock to see them making a comeback for a second time. As long as Durant has these kind of games, and he has them almost nightly, a team as limited offensively as the Bulls can’t hang with the Thunder for 48 minutes.
This was an example of how the Thunder’s defense can play, only it did so against a team that fit its strengths. Crowding the middle and rushing out quickly to stop open shooters. Only the Bulls are a bad shooting team, and while they have smart ball movement, it isn’t quick enough to put a dent in the Thunder’s armor, or make Durant & Westbrook look like they’re losing focus and patience with playing defense.
This was a nice way to rebound from a humiliating loss at home to the Mavs, but far from being proof that this team has what it takes to win it all. Not without Perkins and Sefolosha, and not while Kevin Durant scoring points on iso sets is their best way of getting out of rough spots.