For roughly 45 minutes of gametime, the Oklahoma City Thunder looked awful. The Thunder led the NBA in turnovers last year, and in front of a national audience tonight, they showed why they might do it again this year, coughing the ball up 22 times on the evening. There were silly plays and overly ambitious ones; communication errors and breakdowns in the halfcourt. It was ugly. The Bulls can quickly turn the prettiest offense into a hideous mess, but these wounds felt mostly self-inflicted.
And you know what? It didn’t matter.
Because at the end of the day, Oklahoma City had Kevin Durant. And for as great as Chicago’s team defense is, and for as well as Luol Deng (27 points) played on both ends, it was all rendered obsolete by Durant (24 points, 11-for-19) in the game’s closing moments.
If it sounds unfair, it is. That’s just the way it is guarding Durant, who can shoot over the top of anyone and can use his quick first step to generate space. And when he’s doing the Dirk Nowitzki one step fadeaway? Let’s just all go home.
The Bulls deserved to win this game. They were more creative offensively, running great off-ball stuff for Rip Hamilton (20 points) and Deng. They hit the offensive glass harder (12-8) than the Thunder. They adjusted for Carlos Boozer (9 points, 3-for-9) giving them nothing by posting up Hamilton instead.
But what they couldn’t do is stop Durant from scoring eight points in the final three minutes, and I’m not entirely sure any team could have. With Scott Brooks starting to figure things out a bit in late game situations, Oklahoma City is going to be tough to stop. No more isolations 30-feet away from the basket — Durant is catching at 18-feet, putting the ball on the floor, and firing up a high percentage shot. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Games like this do make you wonder, though. Is Oklahoma City reaching their full potential as a team? The turnovers don’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and it’s worth considering that the talent isn’t always being fully maximized by Brooks.
But again, it’s Durant who makes it all seem irrelevant with one flick of the wrist. And until that stops happening, there’s no reason to think the Thunder won’t keep rolling.