The Oklahoma City Thunder won its third consecutive game on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, dismantling the Chicago Bulls by a final score of 92-79. Russell Westbrook led the way with 21 points, 7 assists and 4 steals.
The Thunder started strong — leading by 20 after the first quarter — and never looked back despite some ugly second half basketball. After beating Chicago by 32 points just 18 days ago, it was another wire-to-wire victory against a bad Bulls team.
The Thunder now moves to 7-7 on the season — finally returning to .500 before hitting the road to face the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday night. Let’s dive in.
Russell Westbrook’s Second Quarter
Despite the Thunder leading 27-7 after the first quarter, Russell Westbrook was 0/4 and scoreless after 12 minutes. Not the biggest deal with the team steamrolling the Bulls, but also not what you’d expect from the reigning MVP.
Things changed quickly in the second quarter.
Westbrook shot 4/5 in 9 minutes of action in the second, scoring 17 points and — surprisingly — using his defense as a catalyst for his offense. He hammered in three dunks, did some of his trademark screaming, and looked like a completely different player than in the first.
His stat line at the half: 17 points, 6 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds.
The Thunder took a 24 point lead into half, and closed out the Bulls early after starting strong. With the Thunder performing so poorly after halftime, Westbrook’s effort in the second quarter became that much more important.
Carmelo Anthony returned after a one game absence due to back soreness. He got off to a quick start for the Thunder, scoring 9 points on 3/5 shooting in the first quarter.
Melo finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds — his third double-double of the season — but failed to hit a field goal after the first quarter, finishing 3/10. He wasn’t spectacular and didn’t need to be, but he did get to the line frequently. He buoyed his stat line with an 11/12 outing from the stripe.
The Bulls are just plain bad
It’s hard to be too upset when the Thunder cruises to a double-digit victory, but it was truly a tale of two halves tonight for OKC. The Thunder led by 20 after the first quarter, 24 at halftime, and was then outscored 45-34 in the second half while playing some truly uninspired basketball.
The only way to make news against teams like Chicago is to lose to them, but lost in the win are some alarming truths for the Thunder. The team shot 36 percent from the floor, 26 percent from downtown, and only registered 15 assists on the evening. Some of that can be chalked up to big-lead-boredom, but it’s not the first time OKC has whimpered to the finish.
With the Spurs, Pelicans and Warriors on deck, there’s still a lot to be desired out of this Thunder team. A win is always a win, but you’d like to see a more complete effort.
Notes & Highlights
Paul George returned to earth. Paul George entered averaging 39.5 points over the last two games, but came cratering back to earth against the Bulls. Despite the match-up looking tasty on paper, he finished with 13 points and 5 rebounds — shooting just 4/15 from the field.
Getting to the line. A bright spot for the Thunder was the team’s ability to get to the free throw line. OKC shot 32/37 from the stripe.
Jerami Grant’s double-double. Jerami Grant recorded his first double-double in a Thunder jersey, finishing with 15 points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes of action. He’s now scored in double-figures in five of seven November contests, and is undeniably a large part of the Thunder attack moving forward.
Alex Abrines remains a mystery. Alex Abrines logged 23 minutes tonight, but scored just 4 points on 1/5 shooting. After his breakout 14-point performance against the Clippers last Friday, he’s scored just 7 points in the last two games combined and isn’t getting the volume of shots he needs to get into rhythm.
Daniel Hamilton’s NBA debut. A night after recording a triple-double for the OKC Blue, Daniel Hamilton made his NBA debut for the Thunder. He checked in around the three minute mark of the fourth quarter, and recorded no stats. Still cool.
Jerami Grant discusses the win/playing his brother. Via Fox Sports Oklahoma.
Ending on a high note: One last Russ hammer for good measure.
Thunder @ Spurs. Friday night at 7PM CT on ESPN and Fox Sports Oklahoma.