Russell Westbrook enjoyed not having Derrick Rose face him, just as the Oklahoma City Thunder in general enjoyed playing the Chicago Bulls without their best player. More than anything, Westbrook probably enjoyed posterizing Omer Asik in one of the most impressive dunks of the season, as the Thunder notched an equally impressive win, showing they are currently the number one team in the NBA.
Westbrook led the Thunder with 27 points, followed closely by Kevin Durant who had 26. Together, scoring 53 of the Thunder’s 92 points, they outscored the Bulls’ starting lineup, finishing with only 39 points. The numbers would have been further apart if the Thunder wouldn’t have pulled their starters at the beginning of the fourth quarter, letting the Bulls lose only by 14, John Lucas making it 92-78 with two late three pointers. Garbage time.
As impressive as Westbrook’s athleticism and Durant’s offense was, it was about the Thunder’s defense, the quiet key to their dominance over the last week, beating the Heat, Lakers and the Bulls between two Sunday’s. Now at 40-12, two games behind the Bulls with the same amount of losses, the Thunder look like the perfect team, like the deserving team to finish the season with the best record in the NBA.
Westbrook’s dunk over Asik put the Thunder 26 points up. The Bulls haven’t lost once this season in low scoring games, winning all three games in which they scored less than 30 points. But when shooting a season low 33%, it’s hard to keep up. Especially when the Thunder’s two man show keeps wrecking havoc, going small or big against a helpless and out-hustled Bulls team.
Playing hard has been the key for the Thunder. Mental focus. Execution. There’s much more to this team than the Durant-Westbrook-Harden scoring machine, scoring about 70% of the Thunder’s points.
Durant – We just picked up the intensity, I think. Playing hard. I can’t stop saying it. Every possession, we’ve just been trying to scramble as hard as we can on the defensive end and move the ball on the offensive end. We’ve got to keep it up.