[We had some server issues throughout the night and this morning. Apologies for the delay -yfbb]
The Bulls entered the game knowing Kirk Hinrich was still out (well) and that Luol Deng had re-aggravated the achilles tendon injury that cost him some games already this season. And during the game itself, Jimmy Butler sprained his ankle in the first half and didn't return. Things are swell.
Despite all of that, there were moments of competence where the Bulls did their customary ‘hang in there' thing, only to get routinely smacked back down as the Thunder have an ability to explode at a moment's notice. Even as the Bulls were working hard offensively resulting in trips to the line, the Thunder were hitting bombs and keeping the Bulls at a distance. Shooting 9-15 from three and over 51% overall, from Durant to Westbrook to Reggie Jackson the Thunder kept to much pressure on the Bulls defense. Jackson was quite impressive, blitzing Marquis Teague for 15 first-half points and making sure there was little drop-off for when Westbrook was temporarily sidelined with a second-quarter ankle sprain.
The Bulls deficit reduction fluctuated as their 3-point shooting did. They started 0/8 from three but had some decent stretches in the following quarters (going 5/11 the rest of the way). DJ Augustin was downright competent, which is a huge upgrade in the PG play we've been subjected to lately. In 36 minutes Augustin was 5-10 for 15 points and 5 assists. But he also had 5 turnovers, another problem area for the team tonight with 16 overall against a squad that you really can't afford to let get out and run. Joakim Noah had 4 turnovers himself, though otherwise he was the best Bull as he finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Taj Gibson was ok (16 and 6), whereas Boozer was in one of those nights where he looked too damned slow to be on the court, with Thibs obliging to where Boozer wound up taking only 7 shots.
The Bulls actually entered halftime with only a 3-point deficit, and there were a couple times in the second half where the Bulls got back within double-digits, but after one such point in the 4th quarter the Thunder put Durant and Westbrook back in, they combined for 12 points on a 16-4 Thunder run, and the game had the result it was always going to.
What was an extra kick in the nuts was hearing that it meant even more injuries for this team. They still look just good enough to make the playoffs if you factor in only the guys who should be playing. But the loss of players beyond Rose makes even that goal fairly insurmountable.