Thunder Blunder Late, Get "BULLied" By Chicago
By Randy Renner
For the first three and a half quarters the Thunder were able to keep the Chicago Bulls at arms length but coming down the stretch the defense cratered, the Bulls bench stepped up and the Thunder went down 108-105.
Russell Westbrook had another superstar effort but fell just short of his fifth straight triple-double with 43 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Serge Ibaka bounced back from a near disappearance against Philadelphia to score 25 points and pull down nine rebounds.
No one else really stood out, though backup point guard D.J. Augustin did get into double figures with 10 points.
The Bulls meanwhile got career games from E'Twaun Moore who scored 19 points off the bench on 9-for-10 shooting including the game winning 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds to play.
The Thunder had just missed a chance at the other end of the floor when Westbrook decided not to pass to a wide-open Ibaka, instead choosing to take a contested shot that missed.
"Just trying to get a good shot. I should have passed to Serge," Westbrook said. "That was a bad decision on my part. He was open and I should have hit him."
The Thunder probably should never have had to be in a position to fight for the win in the closing seconds. They had led by as many as 16 and by 10 with eight minutes to play but their defense couldn't get stops in the fourth quarter.
Chicago scored a whopping 36 points in the final frame on an eye-popping 75 percent shooting (12-for-16). Through the first three quarters OKC had held the Bulls to just 39.4 percent overall and 3-for-20 (15 percent) from beyond the arc. In the fourth quarter alone the Bulls hit four 3-pointers.
"We've got to close out better," Westbrook said. "That's my job."
Bulls rookie center Nikola Miritic also came up big late, scoring 14 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. He had been held to just 3-for-13 shooting overall and 0-for-7 from three in the first 36 minutes but went 2-for-2, both from deep in the last quarter and was 8-for-10 at the free throw line.
Closing out games against good teams has been a problem for the Thunder when Kevin Durant hasn't been on the floor. KD is expected to miss another week or so as he recovers from a minor surgical procedure on his right foot.
Center Steven Adams is close too but again sat out last night. Adams would have come in handy, especially on defense. Enes Kanter again struggled on that end of the floor.
The Thunder are back home now for the next 10 days and begin a four-game home stand Sunday against Toronto.