The Oklahoma City Thunder have the league’s leading scorer in Kevin Durant. They have an elite point guard in Russell Westbrook. They have guys who can light it up like Jeff Greed and James Harden. They have a nice bench.
The Chicago Bulls handcuffed the Thunder all night Monday with what was a vintage Tom Thibodeau defense. It was by no means pretty, in the same way the Celtics have made teams and games look ugly for years with physicality, but it works. The Bulls disrupted any rhythm the Thunder tried to establish. They were never allowed to be comfortable. And the result was Thunder shot 35.4 percent and were 4-19 from three. To be fair, some of that was misses on open looks, and maybe it had something to do with the Thunder being on the second night of a back to back. But a lot of it was the Bulls, who won this one 99-90.
The Bulls already have the 9th ranked defense in the NBA for their first-year coach (who came from the Celtics) but they looked better than that against the Thunder. Chicago’s offense is starting to look more comfortable with Carlos Boozer in the middle of it.
Boozer had 29 points and looked good — he is moving well without the ball and getting a lot of chances because of it as Derrick Rose is starting to find him. The rust is off — so is the pad on his hand — and the result is his touch is back. Boozer is also one of the best in the league at getting to his spots on the floor where he knows he can hit. He was doing that from his left wing spot, from the top of the key, elbow and in the lane Monday.
Boozer, as well as scoring, is a good passer. So is Joakim Noah. Combine that with guys moving off the ball, plus guys like Kyle Korver knocking down the threes, and you have something that is showing flashes now and could be spectacular in the future.
The Bulls needed Boozer on offense because Russell Westbrook just took Rose out of his game. Westbook has the speed to hang with Rose and he’s stronger. Rose was 3 of 13 shooting for 13 points but he did drop nine dimes.
Chicago also got offense by pushing the pace, running on a Thunder team with some weary legs after a tough game against Golden State the night before.
With the Thunder struggling to get a rhythm, coach Scott Brooks tried an interesting move he sat Kevin Druant and Jeff Green for the final nine minutes of the third quarter. It didn’t work — Oklahoma City was outscored by 10 the rest of the quarter and that was essentially it. But if you’re trying to find a rhythm I think taking two of your three best scorers off the floor is an odd way to do it.
Nenad Kristic opened with 8 of the Thunder first 10, hitting 4 of 5 shots. He finished with 18.
Not sure this loss says much about the Thunder, it was a tough spot for them. But the fact Chicago is starting to look comfortable and better says a lot about them.