In Friday’s duel vs. the Chicago Bulls, both teams were given an opportunity for adjustments, They had faced off just two days ago on Wednesday, in which the Bulls handled the Thunder 124-103.
Friday’s game started off eerily similar to their first game as the first quarter started off with a back-and-forth duel. This time it was between Al Horford and Zach Lavine, who put up 11 and 9 points respectively in the quarter, with Horford only taking 8 minutes to score in double figures. Both teams seemed to have figured eachother out as the Thunder were only mounting a 29-27 lead heading into the 2nd quarter.
The second quarter the tides completely shifted in the Thunder’s favor, as they ripped the Bulls defense apart with a barrage of 3’s. The Thunder went 9-19 (47.4%) from 3 in the first half, largely in part of Al Horford’s performance, going 4-5 from 3 in the 1st half. The Bulls tried responding with their own attack from beyond the arch, but could not get anything going, shooting 8-25 (32.0%) from deep. This hot hand from the Thunder gave them a 15-point cushion going into half time at 64-49.
This game looked to be set and stone in the third, with the Thunder’s largest lead of the night with 22, coming with just 2:11 left in the quarter. However; slowly but surely this 22-point lead was chipped away point by point. With both teams giving their second and third units serious looks, the Bulls seized the opportunity. With Bulls center Simi Shittu leading the charge, the Bulls retook the lead from the Thunder 102-101 with just 1:43 to go in the 4th.
The Thunder were not able to take back this lead however, as a missed stepback three from Aleksej Pokusevski, as well as two turnovers from the team gave the Bulls an easy opportunity to collect some points expanding their lead to 3 with 24.7 to go in the game.
Thunder newcower Frank Jackson took it upon himself to bring this team back into the game. Off the inbounds pass, Jackson drove straight to the basket collecting a pair of free throws on the way up, hitting both to make it a 104-103 Bulls lead with 17.0 seconds to go. The Thunder were able to stop the Bulls attempt for a quick bucket, blocking their shot attempt and having a golden opportunity to win the game.
Frank Jackson once again went straight in for a layup but was not able to convert on the shot. In an attempt to go after the loose ball, Thunder’s Kenrich Williams committed a loose ball foul, giving the Bulls Chander Hutchinson two more shots from the line. First one–miss, second one make. Two point Bulls lead.
After a Thunder time out, the inbound went straight to Jackson again, this time he pulled up for a potential game-winning three. After bouncing around for what seemed like an eternity, the ball rolled out, Bulls win.
In this roller coaster of a game Thunder’s Al Horford led the team in scoring, putting up 17 points (6-9) with 8 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. Darius Bazley posted a double-double of 10 points (4-12), 11 rebounds, and 3 assists. His performance even included a posterizer, leaving his man on the deck.
Other bright spots on the team included Thunder 1st-round pick Aleksej Pokusevski, who dropped 12 points (4-10), 13 rebounds, and an assist. As well as Thunder PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who put up 14 points (6-14), and 5 assists.
The Thunder will have a lot to take away from this game, as this nail biter of a game brings valuable late-game experience you simply won’t get through practice. With there preseason over, they will begin their regular season against the Houston Rockets on December 23rd.