The Oklahoma City Thunder exorcised early-season demons tonight in Chicago, using a Russell Westbrook triple-double, swarming defense, and a sub-par opponent to defeat the Chicago Bulls by a score of 101-69. The Thunder moves to 3-3 and is back to winning ways before heading to Milwaukee for a showdown with the Bucks on Tuesday.
It’s Saturday night — let’s get straight to it.
The Thunder defense took care of business tonight in Chicago, using a suffocating second quarter to blow the game wide open. Oklahoma City won the frame by a score of 24-8, and held the Bulls to just 33 total points in the first half. Chicago would ultimately finish with 69 points — a record low for Thunder opponents — and it was a nice bounce-back effort after surrendering 119 to the Timberwolves just a night ago.
Chicago FG%: 28.2 percent
Chicago 3P%: 27 percent
Chicago Turnovers: 19
All that mushy stuff aside, it’s hard to be terribly impressed with anyone’s defense harassing the Bulls. They’re quite honestly a glorified G-League team, and I’m fairly certain they quit before the game was even close to ending. The only way the defense could have really stood out was if Chicago flourished. Alas, they did not.
No news is sometimes the best news. Moving on.
Evenly Distributed Attack
The Thunder shots broke down as follows:
Anthony: 16 shots
George: 15 shots
Westbrook: 13 shots
Adams: 10 shots
As those four are the heart and soul of this Thunder squad, it’s nice to a see them share the shooting responsibilities so evenly. The quality of the opponent certainly made life easier for all involved, but much like the defense, the experience could serve as a spring board for what’s to come. Using the Bulls as target practice could smooth things out across the board.
Final stat lines for the four above:
Anthony: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 7/16 FG, 5/9 3P, +24
George: 20 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 8/15 FG, 4/5 3P, +20
Westbrook: 12 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists, 5/13 FG, 0/2 3P, +26
Adams: 12 points, 8 rebounds, 6/10 FG, +23
Paul George has been a topic of discussion lately, as his ability to get rhythm going on offense has been lacking. He was much more aggressive in getting his shot tonight in Chicago, and knocked down three long balls in the first quarter to set the tone.
He finished with 20 points in 29 minutes, but looked the most confident I’ve seen him since opening night against the Knicks. He doesn’t share the instant connection that Westbrook and Melo seem to be developing, and did a lot of his work in iso-situations against the Bulls. Regardless, the Thunder need him to be Paul George, and he looked the part from a mental standpoint.
Russell Westbrook recorded his third triple-double in six games, and has now triple-doubled against each of the other 29 teams in the NBA. He seemed extra cantankerous tonight in Chicago, but the end result was good. Perhaps the best of all his statistics is the 2 turnovers, as he came in averaging 6.2 per game thus far.
- OKC won the rebounding battle 52-47, and shared better with a 28-16 edge in assists.
- The Thunder forced 18 turnovers, and coughed it up 11 times themselves.
- The Thunder again took an incredible amount of threes, but fared much better tonight than last night in Minnesota. OKC wrapped up the evening shooting 13/34 from deep — good for 38.2 percent.
- Alex Abrines was the first off the bench, but ended up as the only Thunder player with a negative plus-minus. He logged a total of 18 minutes and 5 points on 2/8 shooting. He had only received about 5 minutes of playing time before what could reasonably be considered “garbage time,” so the boost in minutes over last night’s 8 is a bit misleading. Not sure why his minutes are down.
- Speaking of garbage time, this is how the minutes of interest had broken down at the point Westbrook, Adams, Roberson and George checked out for the last time late in the third quarter. Total minutes played in parenthesis.
- Roberson: 20 (20)
- Grant: 13 (23)
- Huestis: 8 (17)
- Patterson: 6 (15)
- Melo is still shooting a lot, but the connection between he and Westbrook is blossoming. Russ seems to find him in shooting position often, and he’s devastating as a catch-and-shoot, or trail-and-shoot, weapon. Convincing him to only take those shots would be a win of epic proportions. But, you know, Stay Melo.
- Nick Collison played and still has fantastic hair.
Some highlights before we say goodbye:
A beautiful example of the Thunder’s all-elusive ball movement. Via OKC Thunder.
How you want Melo being used. Via Thunder.
Back in action Tuesday — Halloween night — for a date with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. 7 PM CT tip on NBA TV and Fox Sports Oklahoma.