The Bulls beat the Thunder earlier this season (somehow) and picked up another impressive win among a sea of bad losses when they turned a 21-point second-half deficit against the Spurs into a shocking 98-93 victory on Saturday. The Bulls faced a similar halftime deficit Monday night in OKC, but this time there was no big comeback as the Thunder never took their foot off the gas in a 121-96 shellacking.
The Bulls actually got off to a decent start behind more Kris Dunn magic and held a 15-10 lead midway through the first quarter, but then the offense dried up and the Thunder went on a 21-3 run to take a commanding 13-point lead toward the tail end of the first quarter. The Bulls hung around as OKC’s bench unit stunk up the joint and even got back within two points midway through the second, but a boatload of turnovers (seven) and a lot of Paul George resulted in a 64-44 halftime score. George scored 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the second quarter en route to a game-high 24 points.
The rest of the game was merely a formality in terms of the outcome, with the Thunder dunking all over the Bulls (Jerami Grant and Steven Adams say hello) while the road team coughed it up a whopping 25 times. The Thunder turned it over 20 times themselves, but part of that was them trying too much fancy stuff plus garbage time sloppiness. Russell Westbrook recorded a triple-double with 13 points, 16 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals as he generally controlled the game.
However, while the game was a laugher throughout the second half, there was some action in the form of a fight. Westbrook got it started by shoving Dunn after a whistle, and Dunn didn’t take kindly to that and shoved back. Chaos ensued, with Grant and Robin Lopez going at it. Lopez looked like he was about to murder somebody:
We've got a scrum in Oklahoma City pic.twitter.com/YuOsGHYiJT— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 18, 2018
Lopez (he was later ejected for dropping the ball on Grant on the ground), Dunn, Westbrook and Grant all got technical fouls, but if you look closer, look at who else was in the middle of it:
This is legitimately insane, but I guess we shouldn’t expect much else from Coach Road Dog. I’m sure John Paxson loves it. And in true Road Dog fashion, the Bulls were pressing full court all the way up to the final buzzer despite the margin, which made it all the more hilarious when the Thunder beat that press for an easy layup. It was also great to see Boylen put Wendell Carter Jr. back in the game in garbage time after sitting for a while with five fouls.
There really wasn’t much to like from this one. Lauri Markkanen led the way with 16 points and 15 rebounds, including seven offensive boards (he fought hard on the glass), but he shot just 6-of-17 from the field and only took three triples, making one. There were also some really ugly dribbling attempts. Bobby Portis added 16 points off the bench on a steady diets of post-ups and mid-range Js, but he only had two boards and had five turnovers. The Bulls allowed 17 offensive rebounds and were outrebounded 49-41, making it the 12th straight game they’ve been outrebounded:
The Bulls run of 12 straight games of being outrebounded is the longest such streak the Bulls have had since at least 1983-84.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) December 18, 2018
Dunn hit a handful of tough shots en route to 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting plus seven assists, but that’s not enough volume for him. He didn’t take a single 3-pointer and only attempted two free throws.
Cam Payne had a faux #RevengeGame with 11 points (5-of-7 shooting) and six assists, but he struggled on defense and fouled out in 22 minutes. Chandler Hutchison hit a few corner triples in garbage time, but he had something like a 13 trillion going before finally recording a stat.
The Bulls’ offense has really struggled under Boylen, and it’s no surprise they couldn’t get much going consistently on the road against an elite defense like OKC. But it’s also disheartening to see situations like this when Boylen is yelling at Shaq Harrison to slow the pace instead of pushing:
Here's Boylen yelling at Shaq Harrison to stop off the outlet pass. pic.twitter.com/QefCx9pkAF— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 18, 2018
And then we’re also getting treated to a steady of diet of Lopez and Portis post-ups. Too often Dunn was being used off the ball while the Bulls were pounding the ball into the post, when he should be used as a primary attacker with a lot of volume, especially with Zach LaVine sidelined:
Pretty typical offensive sequence for the Bulls here. Spend five seconds setting up a post up, five seconds in the post dribbling down the clock. Boylen has taken a young and athletic roster and made it boring, slow, and inefficient https://t.co/KfBq7XBAnJ pic.twitter.com/ad2pOkQYg4— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 18, 2018
The Bulls return home after going 1-2 on their road trip, and they have a host of winnable games coming up before the schedule turns ugly in January. First up is the Nets on Wednesday night, though Brooklyn is rolling of late.