After getting wrecked by Charlotte on Tuesday night, the Bulls returned to the United Center to host the Oklahoma City Thunder, with both teams entering the night at 3-2. Given the way Chicago’s defense looked against a paltry Hornets offense on Tuesday, stopping the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook looked to be a difficult task. Surprisingly, Oklahoma City’s offense couldn’t produce enough to overcome an early deficit.
- In the first half, Chicago capitalized on a poor stretch of shooting from the Thunder to recover from being down 28-25 when the first quarter ended. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls to a 57-50 lead with 21 points at the half. He hit four of his five threes in the game, and he’s drained a scorching 57% of his triples this season.
- Despite being outscored 23-19 in the third quarter, the Bulls maintained a fairly firm lead even as the game progressed well into the fourth quarter. The Thunder made a late run, but that’s when Derrick Rose finally provided some of the explosiveness he was once known for. It’s been a while since he’s looked as good as he did in the final stretch as he did in this game; Rose made 11/16 shots after missing eight of his first nine. He took charge in a way that he just had not been able to at all so far this season.
- Rumors that Derrick might be on the way out of Chicago have begun to surface again. Brian Windhorst of ESPN speculated on SportsCenter that the Bulls/Rose breakup has already begun. Whatever you might think, the fact that he’s signed for over $40 million through 2017 will make it a major challenge to move on from him before then.
- Rose did spend extra time working on his jump shot with Fred Hoiberg prior to Thursday’s game, and his 29 points (12 of which came in the fourth quarter) were critical as he closed out the Thunder. He ended up shooting 12 for 25, so the extra work may have been just what he needed.
- Thursday’s game provided a glimpse of what the Bulls might be capable of when both Rose and Jimmy Butler are scoring. Butler had 26 points to Rose’s 29. Pau Gasol added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
- It was encouraging to see Joakim Noah play as much as he did (a season-high 26 minutes) and contribute seven rebounds and four assists. He stepped up his game for the big stage, and the Bulls were far more successful in his minutes compared to Pau Gasol’s. His role on the team has been in flux so far this year, but in the absence of a strong performance from Nikola Mirotic (just two points and four rebounds), Noah filled in very nicely.
- Kevin Durant poured in 33 points, but Jimmy Butler made him work for them. Even so, Durant has one of the most effortless-looking jumpers in the NBA. Russell Westbrook struggled late but still put up a 20 point, ten assist, eight rebound line. He wasn’t as active as usual, but the Thunder were playing their fourth game in five nights.
- After making his debut on Tuesday, Bobby Portis didn’t see any time in Thursday’s game. Granted, it was a close one from start to finish, but I would like to see him get at least a few more minutes on a regular basis. His defense is shaky, but after six games, he has appeared in just one of them. He needs time on the floor.
- From here, the Bulls will remain at home to face the 2-1 Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.