10 observations: Bulls’ streak snapped with OT loss to OKC originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Following phenomenal victories over the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks, the Chicago Bulls suffered a letdown in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
A 123-119 overtime loss to the Thunder snaps the Bulls’ two-game win streak and moves their record on the season to 8-11 — and, it must be noted, 1-8 in “clutch” games, defined as contests within a five-point margin with five minutes or less to play.
Here are 10 observations:
1. The first three quarters of this game were a roller coaster of runs.
First, it was the Bulls bucking a troubling early-season trend by sprinting out to a 12-point first quarter lead. But some brilliant shotmaking by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (12 points, 5-for-7 shooting) vaulted the Thunder ahead 32-30 after one.
SGA finds a way 😳 pic.twitter.com/Wgteu7Hk3E
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) November 26, 2022
The Thunder continued that spurt early in the second, exploiting a Bulls second unit that has been a strength all season. Playing against Zach LaVine and four reserves, Oklahoma City turned a 26-21 deficit into a 41-36 lead between the 3:12 mark of the first and 8:39 mark of the second before Billy Donovan reinserted the Bulls starting lineup, which righted the ship and sent these sides into halftime tied 59-59.
Then, the Bulls’ offense bogged down to the tune of 7-for-24 shooting in the third quarter after shooting 53.7 percent in the first half (and even that final line was an improvement after missing 12 of their first 14 field goals to open the frame). The Thunder won the third 28-21 to carry a seven-point lead into the fourth.
2. That is when things got wild. In search of a spark, Donovan opened the fourth with Derrick Jones Jr. at the center spot ahead of Andre Drummond, who had four rebounds and missed three of four shots in seven first half minutes. Jones converted two and-one layups in a six-minute stint, but the Bulls’ overall sloppy play continued, leading to a 102-96 deficit with just under five minutes to play.
3. Five straight scoring possessions followed — a LaVine 3-pointer, DeMar DeRozan layup, Alex Caruso bucket, LaVine triple and DeRozan midrange jumper — to thrust the Bulls ahead 108-104. But with four points (on two free throws and a midrange jumper) from Gilgeous-Alexander, a putback by Kenrich Williams, and a handful of empty Bulls possessions, the Thunder pulled ahead 110-108 before a DeRozan midrange shot knotted the score once again.
With a DeRozan miss and Gilgeous-Alexander airmailing a floater after breaking the Bulls’ first line of defense, that score held until overtime.
4. DeRozan scored all nine of the Bulls’ points in the extra period, shooting 6-for-12 between the fourth and overtime to finish with 30. But ultimately, it was an off shooting night for the team’s leading scorer and go-to option down the stretch. Through three quarters, DeRozan shot just 6-for-15 from the field on a diet of looks that he regularly makes. Even when he heated up late, the consecutive string of buckets that define some of his more notable clutch performances never materialized.
5. LaVine, despite finishing with 27 points and drilling those aforementioned fourth quarter 3-pointers, also had a disjointed offensive night. He shot 9-for-23 (4-for-11 from 3-point range) and committed four turnovers. In the bridge between the late first and early second quarters, and sporadically throughout the second half, his shot selection and ball security were questionable — elements of his game which transcend the condition of his left knee.
6. DeRozan and LaVine being off, and the Bulls’ offense skewing heavily towards perimeter-oriented isolation ball, was especially unfortunate because Nikola Vučević could have had a massive night if there was more intention to play through him inside. The Thunder started the spindly, albeit 7-foot tall, Aleksej Pokuševski at center, which Vučević exploited for two early buckets. And the Thunder run small on the front line even behind him.
But ultimately Vučević finished with just 13 points and three assists, taking seven of his 14 field goal attempts from 3-point range (he made 1-of-7 3-pointers and 6-of-7 from inside the arc). The Bulls generated good looks in the first half playing inside-out — even when Vučević does not score, he routinely makes good passing reads out of the post — but the focus to find him was inconsistent.
7. The two-game win streak with which the Bulls rode into Friday night featured two of their most active defensive performances of the season against elite opponents in the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. But that intensity did not carry over against Oklahoma City.
No, although the Thunder struggled from 3-point range (7-for-29, 24.1 percent), they shot 56.1 percent inside the arc and 75.8 percent in the restricted area in this one. The NBA leaders in paint points per game entering play, Oklahoma City also won that battle 68-48 — not with size, but with persistent waves of off-ball cuts and relentless slashes to the basket by their primary ball-handlers. The Bulls struggled to contain that penetration and forced just 13 turnovers for the game.
8. Gilgeous-Alexander entered play the NBA’s third-leading scorer (averaging 31.1 points) and fourth in points in the paint per game (15.8), so he projected to be a handful. And the 6-foot-6 lead guard got his, notching 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists while catching the Bulls’ point of attack defenders off guard on multiple occasions with hesitation dribble moves. The craftiest of all came with 27.1 seconds to play in overtime, when he gave DeRozan a taste of his pump-fake medicine to draw a three-shot foul as the shot clock wound down and, ultimately, put Oklahoma City ahead 121-119.
DeRozan missed a jumper the next time down that led to game-icing free throws.
9. Caruso was the only Bulls reserve to play more than 20 minutes, logging 28. Give him credit for impacting the game in multiple facets by at least making Gilgeous-Alexander’s life difficult en route to 8-for-21 shooting and, offensively, scoring 12 points (2-for-2 from 3-point range) and handing out four assists.
10. Patrick Williams scored in double figures for the third game in a row, tallying 11 points (3-for-3 from 3-point range), seven rebounds and two blocks. He continued his improved, active play at both ends and earned himself crunch time minutes, in turn.
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