It wasn't quite to the level of their March 5th matchup (aka The E'Twaun Moore game), but the Bulls and Thunder had another close game decided in the final minutes, this time with the Thunder pulling away for a 109-100 defeat of the Bulls.
In the Bulls third straight noon Sunday game, we saw yet another really ugly first quarter, which included the Thunder starting 2/15 from the field and the Bulls get only 15 points where 12 came from Pau Gasol. For the Bulls, the overall flow of the offense actually looked alright (helped by Hinrich, I must admit! Learn the game!) , it was just that they were missing a lot of open looks, especially Snell and Dunleavy. Behind a couple runs of 8 straight points by Nikola Mirotic (with no Serge Ibaka, OKC had nobody who could guard him) and 6 straight by Aaron Brooks, the Bulls wound up tieing the game at half. The huge edge for the Thunder was on the glass, nearly doubling up the Bulls overall and snagging around half of the available offensive rebounds. It helped that the Thunder bigs (especially Adams) blew several inside looks.
Russell Westbrook was fairly awful in the first half, and at one point in the 3rd quarter he caught his own miss and the announcers weirdly marveled as his ability to do so. But Westbrook started playing in a way more deserving of praise in that 3rd period, with 12 points on 4-9 shooting. The Bulls were staying in the game by finally starting to hit three pointers (4-8 after going 3-15 in first half) but between Westbrook and Enes Kanter the Thunder built a 5 point lead heading into the fourth, capped off with something we've seen a lot of lately: a tip-in off of a missed free throw.
(yes, it was some more poor defense/rebounding by Gasol here, but to be fair to him he continues to be played for entire 1st/3rd quarters at a time and was noticeably gassed)
The Bulls quickly regained the lead as Westbrook sat out the first few minutes of the 4th, and upon his return it was a real back-and-forth battle led by Westbrook on the OKC side and Mirotic for the Bulls. The Bulls enjoyed a healthy FT margin in that final quarter led by Mirotic going 9-9, and he finished with 17 fourth quarter points and a Bulls-high 27 for the game. Mirotic's 4th quarter play in games since Taj Gibson's injury have certainly earned him a spot in the closing lineup, though I also think Joakim Noah deserved to play alongside him instead of Gasol. Noah had one of his better games lately, with 15 points and 7 assists, but he was indeed part of the total pounding the Bulls received on the glass (over 41% ORR by OKC) with only 3 rebounds in 31 minutes.
The Bulls were still only down two until Westbrook had a huge steal when Mirotic had him pinned for an entry pass, going the length of the floor for a layup. On the following possession Waiters stripped the ball off of Moore. A Westbrook-assisted Morrow three then saw the Bulls down 7 with under a minute to go. It was Westbrook's 6th assist to go with his game totals of 11 rebounds and 36 points. He shot 12-27 and had 4 of his team's 16 turnovers, but made more than enough plays in the final period to get the Thunder a much-needed win as they fight to get in Western Conference playoffs. The Bulls meanwhile have lost 5 of their last 6 games since that game where they beat the Thunder, the only win since them being an overtime one against the Sixers.