Regular Season Recap: Thunder vs Bulls

BULLS 78

THUNDER 92
0 Ties or lead changes in this game, in which the Thunder led throughout

9 Blocked shots for the Thunder, including five from Serge Ibaka

10 Rebounds for Kevin Durant, part of his 26-point, 4 assist game for his 16th double-double

20 Number of Thunder assists Sunday afternoon, led by Russell Westbrook who had five and zero turnovers

21-for-34 Shooting numbers for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined (61.7 percent)

27 Points for Russell Westbrook, the game-high

31-12 Scoring advantage in the third quarter for the Thunder

33.0 Shooting percentage for the Bulls, thanks to the Thunder's defensive effort

The Thunder will stay at home for one more night when it hosts the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. Game time is 7:00 p.m. Central and will air live on Fox Sports Oklahoma and the Thunder Radio Network.

The Thunder then hits the road for a two-game road trip against Eastern Conference foes. The Thunder takes on the Miami Heat on Wednesday, then travels to Indiana to play the Pacers on Friday before returning home to host on the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

GAME IN REVIEW


RECAP:
From the opening tip to the final whistle on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls, the Thunder played with fire, energy, effort and precision. In a display of what Derek Fisher characterized as "unbridled passion" after the team's win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Thunder was able to knock off the team with the NBA's best record 92-78 in a game that wasn't close after halftime.

"That was an efficient win for us," Head Coach Scott Brooks said. "There is no question we played our best defense of the year. I liked the way the guys fed off the basketball. We challenged every pass, we challenged every shot and we rebounded the ball better as the game was going on... Bottom line is that we played good defense. I'm happy for the guys and the way they played and the way they responded."

It was the stifling defense that held the Bulls to only 33 percent shooting overall on the afternoon, including 23.8 percent in the third quarter that showed just how prepared the Thunder was coming into this game. Kevin Durant said that the team's day of practice on Saturday was essential to helping the team stay sharp, keep its edge and hone on things that it could improve upon. It also was clear that the Thunder knew how it wanted to attack the Bulls offensively and defensively.

"We know this team is very disciplined defensively and offensively, and we just played together," Durant said. "Guys were moving the ball and getting good shots, and on the defensive end we just helped each other out and played hard."

While Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 53 of the Thunder's 92 points and at the end of three quarters was out-scoring the bulls 53-51, it was the physical, imposing presence inside that also caused problems for Chicago. Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka played tough down low throughout the day, blocking shots and limiting the Bulls to only 20 points in the paint all night. Perkins, however, decided to deflect praise and heap it on the perimeter defenders.

"I think it was another game that started with our guards," Perkins said. "I thought what Kevin and Russell and Thabo (Sefolosha), they're energy from the jump, the way they were putting pressure on the ball and being in the right spots today was just phenomenal. Then Russ and Kevin got out to a great start offensively also, so that helped us a lot."

In fact, while Perkins and Ibaka held Joakim Noah to a 1-for-8 shooting night, the guards limited Luol Deng and Kyle Korver to a combined 9-for-26 shooting effort, making it a complete defensive performance for the entire squad. When the Thunder plays the way it did this afternoon, it leads to exciting transition buckets, teammates feeding each other and off of one another and in general, a pure joy for playing the game. Whether it was Westbrook running out to half court to greet teammates at timeouts or the bench erupting along with the guys on the floor after unselfish and hard-nosed plays, the Thunder showed how much its players love to play together.

"A lot of fun, it's definitely fun, especially when you're winning," Westbrook said. "Everybody is getting involved and we're doing great."

TURNING POINT:
The turning point in this one extended from the end of the second quarter until mid-way through the third quarter. The Thunder led 43-39 with 2:19 remaining in the half when Serge Ibaka made a block that led to a Thabo Sefolosha-to-Kevin Durant-to-Sefolosha fast break that got the Chesapeake Energy Arena crowd on its feet. Russell Westbrook followed it up with a bank shot, and then Kendrick Perkins knocked down a 15-foot jumper off a Durant assist to give the Thunder a 10-point cushion at halftime. To start the third quarter, Sefolosha assisted two quick Ibaka scores, then Westbrook and Durant both hit jumpers before Westbrook found Durant on an alley-oop. Finally, the 21-2 run concluded with a Westbrook 3-pointer, off a Perkins assist. With 7:00 remaining in the third quarter, the Thunder had built a commanding 64-41 lead.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, FIRST HALF:
Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka combine to protect the rim, then Russell Westbrook goes coast to coast for a transition layup… Nice pick from Perkins to free up Kevin Durant for a jumper, then Ibaka swats away a shot at the rim… Really cool moment as Nick Collison and Perkins discuss defensive strategy coming out of a timeout, then Westbrook wins a jump-ball against a much-taller Kyle Korver… High-reaching defensive board from Ibaka, then Perkins drives to the lane and finds Ibaka on a short corner jumper… Thabo Sefolosha makes a hustle play to pick up a loose ball, then Ibaka comes from the weakside to block a sure layup… James Harden doing a really nice job of chasing Korver around screens then Perkins cleans up a Durant miss… Great work by Collison to draw a charge in transition, then Derek Fisher makes a heady play in the lane to knock away a pass attempt… Bulls try to trap Durant up top, but he hits Harden with a bounce pass for a 3-pointer to close the quarter… Fisher with a slick pass into Collison in the post, which he finishes with a layup, then Collison smartly tips a defensive board to Fisher… Two man game between Harden and Collison as Harden knocks down the open jumper after a Collison dish… Great reaction time to snag loose balls by Sefolosha and Collison, then Durant finishes with a scoop shot at the rim… Quick hands in the lane by all the Thunder players, which ends up with a Harden-to-Westbrook run out finished by a lefty slam dunk… Amazing block by Ibaka leads to a Sefolosha-to-Durant-to-Sefolosha fast break layup, then Durant smartly recognizes Westbrook had a mismatch in the post and fed him the ball... Durant runs down a loose ball then drives and dishes to Perkins for a jumper, then Ibaka gets a block to stop a sure layup.

PLAYS THE BOXSCORE WON’T SHOW, SECOND HALF:
Sefolosha flips a perfect no-look, behind-the-back pass to Perkins in the post for a bucket, then Ibaka knocks down an open jumper... Perkins sets a great screen up top to free up Durant for a mid-range jumper... Beautiful lob pass from Westbrook to Durant for an alley-oop layup then Westbrook spectacularly comes back and makes a steal, then saves it behind his back to a teammate... Sharp passing from Durant to Perkins to Westbrook leads to two free throws, then Westbrook uses a Perkins screen to knock down a 3-pointer... Westbrook hits Durant for a 3-pointer and knocks away a pass attempt on the other end of the floor, then Durant forces an air-ball leading to an alley-oop from Westbrook to Durant from mid-court... Westbrook sneaks in and makes a steal in the backcourt then dishes to Ibaka for a slam dunk, then Collison sees an open lane and makes a ferocious two-handed slam dunk with the foul... Ibaka makes a block, then Durant tips the loose ball to Harden... Westbrook drives the lane and posterizes Omer Asik, then Durant hits a three-pointer, followed by Fisher snatching up a loose ball by being tough... Physical rebounding inside by Collison to reel in a defensive board, then Collison steps in and takes a charge... Harden somehow slips through the teeth of the defense for a layup at the rim, then Collison saves a defensive board back in bounds... Collison runs back in help defense to force a travel... Lazar Hayward knocks down a jumper, then Fisher pitches a lead pass ahead to Royal Ivey for a transition layup... Cole Aldrich with a monster block at the rim, then Ivey comes away with the loose ball... Aldrich makes another basket-saving block in the paint.



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