- The Bulls headed into rockin’ Oklahoma City and delivered a delightful Christmas gift in the form of a 105-96 victory. The Bulls led the entire 48 minutes. After a few demoralizing losses to inferior teams, Fred Hoiberg and co. needed this one.
- Jimmy Butler was the man from start to finish. He pulled off highlight plays the entire game, with this buzzer beater worth watching a few more times:
- Butler finished with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, and four steals. He also did a great job containing Kevin Durant as much as humanly possible, consistently making him work to get his 29 points. Derrick Rose had a moderately encouraging day as well, finishing with 19 points and four rebounds on 7/18 shooting. He struggled to distribute the ball, finishing with just one assist.
- In the absence of Joakim Noah (shoulder), the rest of the frontcourt stepped up in a big way. Nikola Mirotic started at small forward once again, and it actually worked out very nicely for Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls. Mirotic was a team-high +20 in only 16 minutes, adding seven rebounds and two blocks.
- Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol were beasts. Gibson had 13 points and 10 boards in 34 minutes while Gasol was everywhere, tallying 21 points, 13 rebounds, and six dimes. The Thunder just don’t have anyone capable of stopping Gasol consistently inside, especially with Steven Adams in foul trouble early on. It was a great game for the duo, and hopefully a sign of more to come. The Bulls badly need more offensive production out of the frontcourt. With Joakim Noah out, the continued scoring of Gasol in particular will be critical.
- Bobby Portis got another chance to shine with Noah out for a few weeks. His energy and offensive skill set are obviously exciting (the three point stroke!), but Portis is still raw. He has trouble guarding his man and still hasn’t learned the difference between an available shot and a good one. I’m looking forward to him getting more rotation minutes and improving. He had seven points, five rebounds, and three assists in 20 minutes.
- The problem for the Thunder was a void of scoring from anyone besides Durant and Russell Westbrook, who tallied 26 points along with seven rebounds, eight assists, and six (!) steals. Serge Ibaka struggled mightily to hit anything and aside from Enes Kanter (a legitimately useful 14 and 12), none of Oklahoma City’s secondary options were able to provide a big enough boost.
- Coming up: the Bulls head to Dallas tomorrow night for a 7:30 matchup with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.