The Thunder went 5-6 in the first 11 games after Westbrook
returned to the lineup Feb. 20. He started at the United Center on
Monday after taking the previous night off, and everything seemed to
Westbrook and Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant had little trouble
solving one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. Durant scored 35
points and Westbrook added 17, leading the Thunder to a 97-85
victory over the Chicago Bulls.
For the 32nd consecutive game, Durant scored at least 25 points, the
second-longest streak in the NBA over the past 50 years, according
to the Thunder.
At the start of the day, the Bulls were tied with the Indiana Pacers
for fewest points allowed in the league, 92.2 per game. Chicago also
was second in defensive field-goal percentage at .431.
"I knew after last night's game, we would come back and do much
better," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said, referring to Sunday's home
loss to the Dallas Mavericks. "Give our guys credit, they hung in
there and played a physical game."
Westbrook sat out the loss to Dallas to avoid playing back-to-back
games. He is still coming back from surgery to repair cartilage in
his right knee last summer.
Westbrook added nine assists and nine rebounds. Durant hit 11 of 21
shots from the field while adding 12 rebounds and five assists.
Center Serge Ibaka scored 15, and guard Caron Butler contributed 12
off the Thunder bench.
"We did a very good job of keeping the pace high, and we were
playing our game," Westbrook said.
Oklahoma City's defense played a key role in the victory. After the
Bulls pulled within 76-75 with 10 minutes remaining, Chicago went
scoreless for the next 6:30, missing 11 consecutive shots before
center Joakim Noah finally ended the 13-0 run with a free throw.
"This game, I thought we did a lot of good things," Bulls coach Tom
Thibodeau said. "We didn't cover the (3-point) line as well as we
would have liked to. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we would
have liked to. That's why it's so important to have shooting."
Guard Derek Fisher started the Thunder's run by hitting a 3-pointer.
An Ibaka dunk, a pick-and-roll pass from Westbrook that led to a
Durant dunk, and three free throws by Butler sent the lead soaring
to 86-75 with 6:22 remaining.
Chicago trailed 76-67 after Thunder guard Reggie Jackson opened the
fourth quarter with two free throws. The Bulls responded with a
quick 8-0 run. Guard Jimmy Butler's steal and dunk, then two baskets
by forward Taj Gibson closed the gap to 76-75.
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Chicago (37-30) had two chances to take the lead, but a turnover and
a missed 3-pointer by Butler set the stage for Oklahoma City to pull
Gibson led the Bulls with 16 points. Jimmy Butler added 13, while
forward Carlos Boozer finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Chicago shot just 34.5 percent from the field overall and made five
of 22 attempts from 3-point range.
"You've got to give credit where credit is due," Noah said. "They
did a nice job hitting shots tonight. They played with an edge. We
missed shots, and we definitely could have played better, though."
The game was tight for most of the first half. Oklahoma City (49-18)
used a 9-0 run late in the second quarter to open a 42-35 advantage.
The Bulls closed within 47-45 by halftime after Jimmy Butler and
guard Kirk Hinrich finished the quarter with 3-pointers.
Another 9-0 run in the third quarter put the Thunder ahead 69-58
with 4:12 remaining. Durant ended the spree by draining a long
3-pointer, then getting fouled behind the arc and sinking two of the
three free throws.
The Bulls were hit with three technical fouls for defensive
three-second violations. Durant knocked down the free throw after
NOTES: Oklahoma City G Russell Westbrook was back in the starting
lineup Monday but didn't want to explain why he sat out Sunday's
loss to Dallas and played in Chicago. Thunder coach Scott Brooks has
said Westbrook might sit out in back-to-back situations while
returning from a setback in his offseason knee surgery. "All I can
tell you is that it was a decision we made as a group and stuck to
it," Westbrook said. ... Like Westbrook, Bulls G Derrick Rose had
surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee. Rose is out for the
season. "I've talked to him numerous times," Westbrook said before
the game. "He's a tough guy. ... He's going to come back the same
D-Rose he was before." ... Thunder G Thabo Sefolosha missed his
eighth consecutive game with a left calf strain, while C Kendrick
Perkins missed his 11th game with a groin strain. ... Oklahoma City
F Kevin Durant's streak of 32 games with at least 25 points is the
longest in the NBA since Michael Jordan had 40 straight for the
Bulls in 1986-87.
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