After the defensive debacle against the Charlotte Hornets, the main concern for the Chicago Bulls was obviously on the defensive end. It was going to be a big test for Chicago going against the duo of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The game started great for Oklahoma City as Westbrook and Durant were more of distributors than scorers.
Chicago was willing to double both of them coming off pick and rolls which opened up shots for players like Serge Ibaka. Ibaka had a great first quarter as he knocked down open jumpers and got the OKC offense rolling. But Chicago's offense started off ice cold from the field.
The Bulls looked less patient on offense to start the quarter, settling for jumpers instead of trying to work through the motions and finding a shot or a shot inside the paint. But Fred Hoiberg inserted Joakim Noah and the nine-year veteran gave the Chicago Bulls a spark. Noah's energy seemed to spark the Bulls offense, and without Durant on the floor, Oklahoma City struggled. The first quarter ended with a 28-25 lead for OKC.
The reversal of fortunes for both teams seemed to continue as Chicago kept getting hotter on offense. The Bulls had great three-point shooting in the first half and Aaron Brooks and the second unit were a big part of it. After giving up 30-plus points in every quarter against Charlotte, the Bulls put up 32 as they led 57-50 to end the first half.
Chicago gained an advantage in the paint with both Noah and Taj Gibson in the game. Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol, who were the starters in this game, both struggled.
Mirotic has apparently lost all of his confidence in his jump shot as he struggled on offense. Gasol had trouble finishing near the rim and his lack of defensive effort were exploited by Oklahoma City, particularly on the pick and roll.
The third quarter is where things really got interesting as both Durant and Westbrook started to heat up. With Chicago in an offensive groove and Oklahoma City struggling, the duo helped Oklahoma stay in the game.
Oklahoma City struggles when they don't move the ball around and when either Durant and Westbrook try to go one on one. Ball movement makes everything work for the Thunder. Combine that with only 19 points in the quarter by Chicago, and it was a tight game heading into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter started with both teams benches on the court. With Doug McDermott being the only starter on the floor, the Bulls took advantage of Durant and Westbrook being on the bench and stretched their lead to 10.
But the game changed when Durant got back into the game as he started to heat up from outside to pull Oklahoma City back into the game.
Led by Durant, the Thunder were able to tie up the game at 90 apiece with a little over four minutes remaining. But then Derrick Rose started to assert himself on offense. After starting out ice cold in the first half, Rose picked it up in the second quarter and had a great finish to the game.
Using the pick and roll to get a matchup with Enes Kanter, Rose used his speed to get to the basket and was able to step back and hit a shot off the glass which will do wonders for his confidence in his jump shot.
The teams went back and forth as Rose traded baskets with Oklahoma City. But a key strip by Gibson on Durant and another stepback jumper by Rose gave Chicago a 102-96 lead with 1:02 left and Chicago was able to finish off the game and win 104-98.