Thunder Defense Fuels Win over Bulls

After dominating the Bulls by 32 points in Chicago just two-and-a-half weeks ago and coming off consecutive wins at home, the Thunder came into tonight’s matchup with expectations of a big win. That was exactly what happened as Oklahoma City led from wire to wire, and the Thunder moved back to .500 on the season as they defeated the Bulls 92-79.

Oklahoma City started off the game with a victorious mindset as they displayed some of their best defense of the season. Offensively, Carmelo Anthony got hot early as he scored nine points and pulled down five rebounds in the first eight minutes of the game, carrying the Thunder to a 16-6 lead.

After Melo, it was the Thunder’s bench that would put in some work as they rolled off an 11-1 run to finish out the period with a 27-7 lead. Holding the Bulls to just seven points is the second-fewest scored by any team in the NBA so far this season, and that also ties a Thunder record.

The Bulls would pick up the pace a little bit in the second quarter, essentially matching the Thunder point for point, but Oklahoma City would maintain their large lead. Despite not scoring in the first quarter, Russell Westbrook would pick up where Carmelo Anthony left off, pouring in 17 second-quarter points to go along with his six assists, four steals, and three assists for the half. At the end of the second quarter, the Thunder would hold a hefty 58-34 lead over the Bulls.

Starting off the second half, Oklahoma City played with a slightly different tone than the first half. The Thunder struggled to take good shots, and despite maintaining a solid lead, Oklahoma City shot just 23.5% from the field in the third period. Nevertheless, after three quarters, the Thunder held a 77-56 lead.

Maintaining a 20-point lead for all four quarters is quite the challenge, and the Thunder showed why in the final period of the night. The poor shooting continued for Oklahoma City, but Chicago was not much better, so the Thunder were able to hold on just fine. Twelve different players in a Thunder jersey saw the floor tonight, and all but two scored as Oklahoma City walked away with the win.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • When the Offense Struggles, the Defense Can Win Games: Plainly put, the Chicago Bulls are hot garbage by NBA standards. They are the youngest team in the league, and their struggles are visible in essentially every area of the game, so tonight’s win is not a particularly impressive one. However, despite the Thunder shooting 36.1% from the floor, which is their second-lowest field goal percentage for the season, the defense was able to hold Chicago to just 34.7%. This type of play is what will win closer games for Oklahoma City down the road.
  • Give the Young Fellas a Hand: The Thunder bench continues to improve, scoring 31 points tonight. Jerami Grant led the way off the bench with 15 points and 11 rebounds, his first every double-double in a Thunder uniform. After Grant, no other bench player scored more than five points (Raymond Felton and Patrick Patterson had five apiece), but having a guy that can come off the bench and score in double figures on a regular basis is something that a Thunder team has not had in quite some time.
  • Take Better Shots: For the first half, Oklahoma City shot a solid 19/40 (47.5%) from the floor, including 4/10 (40%) from three. The second half, however, was a different story, as the Thunder managed just 7/32 (21.9%) from the field and 4/20 (20%) from three. When a team has a large lead throughout a game, it’s really easy for them to get complacent and settle for lower quality shots, specifically threes. While Oklahoma City came out just fine tonight, they cannot expect to win games shooting that poorly. When it comes down to it, the Thunder simply needs to take higher quality shots, which is typically a result of good ball movement. They cannot afford to let the passing game grow stagnant and end in poor shot selection.

On the Road Again

After a three-game homestand, the Thunder heads back out on the road, this time to take on the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday. The Spurs have been without their superstar Kawhi Leonard, so they are not exactly at full strength, but they have still been a pretty solid team so far this season with a 9-7 record. Tip-off is at 7 PM CT, and the game will be televised on ESPN and FSOK. The game will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM the Sports Animal.

Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 

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