Game 58 Recap: Thunder (36-22) def. Bulls (20-39) 124-122
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I almost feel bad for Chicago Bulls fans.
Already thin on talent, their team is devastated with a rash of injuries to Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr, Otto Porter, Denzel Valentine, Kris Dunn and Luke Kornet.
It’s 28 degrees in Chicago as I’m writing this, plus whatever chill the Windy City subtracts.
They lost an MVP Derrick Rose in the prime of his career.
They’ve had to deal with Cavs, Heat and now Lakers stans ridiculously baiting them into debates about LeBron James having overtaken Michael Jordan as the GOAT.
They got swindled by Sam Presti into trading Taj Gibson, Doug McDermott AND a 2nd round pick (which became Mitchell Robinson) for Cameron “No Ceiling” Payne.
They’ve only enjoyed 12 home victories this season in 31 tries.
And they’ve only beaten one team with a winning record all year. Scratch that, all season. I can’t say all year because they haven’t beaten a winning team since the calendar flipped to 2020. The Bulls’ only victory over a team above .500 was on December 14 against the Los Angeles Clippers. A game in which neither Kawhi Leonard nor Lou Williams suited up. So no wins over a healthy team with a winning record all year, all season, all pain and agony for Bill Swerski’s Superfans.
Then the Thunder decided to just pour more salt into the wounds of 20,000 already salty fans.
The tables seemed to have finally turned. It seemed as though Chicago was going to pull off a memorable home win by way of a stirring, impossible comeback against the #6 seed in the West. The home crowd was whipped into a frenzy, courtesy of the two young rays of light in an otherwise dark abyss.
Riding the blistering shooting and heroic, superstar worthy performances from Zach LaVine and Coby White, the scrappy bunch of backups clawed back from a 24 point deficit to take a 4 point lead over the visiting Thunder.
For every blow that Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander landed, LaVine and White countered with a punch of their own. The Bulls held a 1 point lead with 2:02 on the clock, a suddenly passionate crowd feeding the team all the energy and momentum needed to finish the job against a marquee team at long last.
122 seconds later, 20,000 Bulls fans left the United Center cursing Chris Paul’s name.
Thunder fans could’ve saved them the heartbreak of the emotional roller coaster.
You see, this Thunder team was never going to lose this game.
OKC has beaten teams with losing records in 16 out of their last 17 tries.
OKC has won a franchise record 9 straight road games.
And OKC has the top 5 players in clutch time plus minus in the NBA.
A road game against a sub .500 team that comes down to crunch time? That’s Chris Paul’s music.
Poor Bulls fans had just never heard the tune.
- If the Celtics beat the Jazz tonight, the Thunder will be tied for the 5 seed.
- OKC could lose their next 10 games and the Blazers could win their next 10 games, and the Thunder would still be ahead of Dame and Co for the #8 seed. In other words, reserve time in your schedules for mid-April cause this rebuilding squad is crashing the playoffs.
- Danilo Gallinari guested on the Daily Thunder Podcast on Monday. In his first game since, he started off 5/5 from 3. Coincidence? I think not.
- Speaking of, have you listened to the Gallo interview yet? If not, stop reading this recap right now.
- Ferguson hitting 2 free throws seemed to do wonders for his confidence. Came back immediately on the next possession and splashed a 3. Then he connected on his next two 3 point attempts. TFerg can shoot. He hit 36.6% from 3 last year on higher volume. Let’s hope this helps him get out of the slump. The team still believes in him.
- Terrance Ferguson out here shooting like he was on the Daily Thunder Podcast.
- With Steph Curry and Klay Thompson all year, the NBA needed a new set of Splash Bros. Danilo Gallinari and Terrance Ferguson: hold our beer (and wine).
- Chris Paul launched a half court halftime buzzer beater, which fell a good three feet short of hitting rim. WITH STEVEN ADAMS WIDE OPEN JUST A FEW FEET AWAY FROM HIM. Does CP3 hate us all?
- It’s not a Thunder game unless it’s a nail biter going into the 4th quarter. Poor Bulls had no idea this was all a part of the gameplan.
- List of players more clutch than Chris Paul:
- Lost in the LaVine and White fireworks and OKC’s clutch win, Shai had an outstanding overall game. He scored 21 points on 11 shots, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, blocked 2 shots and had 1 steal in a pear tree.
- Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden never won 9 straight road games. Lu Dort has.
- Despite the Bulls’ record and roster, that’s a great win for OKC. LaVine & White played like stars. Thunder gave up a big lead on the road, yet had the resiliency to do what they’ve done all season: fight back & dominate in the clutch. Adams’ block + CP3’s bucket won the game.
- Up next: the Kings in OKC on Thursday night.