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Thunder Complete Comeback, Ride Past Bulls 127-125

Entering Friday night both the Thunder and Bulls had entered the ‘Peake on a slump, with two and three game losing streaks respectively. For the Thunder, their last two losses had come off of double-digit losses, including a 29-point blowout to the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Bulls had lost all three of their California road-trip games (Kings, Lakers, Clippers) by four or less points.

In the early stages of the game, it was apparent that Chicago had control of this game. The Bulls shot a star-stunning 11-21 (52.4%) in the the opening period of the game, nailing four of their nine threes (44%.) Oklahoma City could not get anything going at first, shooting a measly 9-24 (38%) from the field hitting just three of their twelve triples (25%.) The Bulls went on a 6-2 run to close the quarter 30-22, Coby White dropped all six of his first-quarter points in the final 90 seconds,

The second quarter resulted in even more offensive firepower from the Bulls. In the first two minutes of the quarter, they set the tone, shooting strictly three ball (in which they shot 2-4.) This successes early from deep provided them space for the lane, and with seven to go in the second they sat upon a 16 point lead. The Thunder kept things close in the final seven only being outscored 18-14, but the damage from the earlier course of the second paid it’s repercussions. By half, the Bulls lead got wild, expanding to a 68=50 lead.

The Bulls were a flurry of shots from all across the court– with multiple players initiating the offense. Four players posted double-figures for the red-and-black in the first two quarters in Lavine, White, Carter Jr., and Markannen. Chicago eclipsed their first quarter stroke from the field, boosting their field goal percentage (56%) and 3-point percentage (56%) by the end of the half. Oklahoma City found a duo in the high pick-and-roll with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Isaiah Roby, who had 14 and 9 points respectively. Their was little help from the supporting case as only one other player marked up more than five in the half (Kenrich Williams.)

Chicago had things under their control come the second half of the game, and they had purportedly put this game away with 9 to go in the quarter. Oklahoma City had faced their largest deficit of the matchup at 22, but they stepped up to the challenge. The Thunder fastened their seatbelts and took an 8-0 in the course of two minutes to bring this game down to 14. Billy Donovan called a crucial timeout for the Bulls with six to go, in hopes of lighting a fire under his squad. The Bulls however deliquesced under the heat. Oklahoma City’s brilliant pressure directed at the ball handlers jarred nine turnovers in the quarter (including four possessions in a row) to chip this game away to two on a 26-5 run. Luguentz Dort led the stampede in the period posting 15 points in quarter alone and his enervating presences on defense seemed down to the entire roster, flipping nine turnovers into 19 Thunder points. The Bulls had a small increment of prosperity closing out the third on 12-6 run to carry an eight point lead, but doubt must’ve crept into every television screen in the Windy City come the fourth.

Chicago reverted back to their first-half form, running out to a 16-point lead with just under five to go in the game. This moment felt like it may have been the end of the glory road for Oklahoma City, but it was far from it. Mark Daigneault pulled a struggling Darius Bazley (finished 3-12 from the field) from the game for Kenrich Williams. Williams’ exuberance off the bench revitalized the OKC core bursting out on a offensive frenzy to fight back at the Bulls. Chicago was trading off fire with the Thunder in the final goings of regulation, but they were surreptitiously losing their advantage point-by-point.

This appeared to be a “saved by the bell” scenario as with two to go Oklahoma City was behind by ten points. Miraculously, the Thunder dished up seven points in under a minute to synch the gap to just three with 50 seconds to go. After a scoreless possession for Chi-town, the Thunder had a chance to tie this game with a three. What ensued was a roller coaster of emotions as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander slashed to basket and drilled a layup off a spin move, the kicker– he had a trip to the line. SGA buried the game-tying free throw to knot things up at 116 with 16 seconds to go, but a timeout and Billy Donovan’s clipboard game way for a potential comeback. The final play for Chicago touched for different players and went to the hot-handed Zach Lavine with just four seconds left. Lavine sent up a prayer that was off the mark, and this bad boy was headed into overtime.

The overtime period brought the appearance two unsung heros in Mike Muscala and Kenrich Williams. Muscala hit the first shot of OT to bring OKC up three (which was their biggest lead of the game to that point) and Kenrich Williams laid in a post-shot over Coby White to make the lead five. A pair of Bulls shots brought this game to one, at one point, but by the final possession Chicago found themselves down two with 5.2 to go. Zach Lavine took the ball from their end to the court to the three point line, but a swarm of both sides players forced an off-balance three that hit left iron– no good.

For Oklahoma City, they notched their first win at home, while their 22-point comeback sits as their fifth biggest in the franchises history, while the Bulls have a fun plane ride home to Dallas.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder in scoring with a career-high 33 points (13-19 FG) with 5 boards and 10 assists. Lu Dort also had a career night on Friday with 21 points (7-15 FG), 8 rebounds, and a career-high 6 steals. He joins a decorated class of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in players dropping 20 points 5 rebounds and 5 steals before the age of 22. Four other members of the Thunder compiled double digits in Roby, Williams, Muscala, and Maledon, but this entire comeback was a combined group effort by all players. Kenrich Williams credits veteran George Hill (who shot 3-14) for this game saying “G-Hill gave us a good speech at half.”

For Chicago (4-8), this was their fourth nail-biting loss in a row, but their were many great thing to take from this game. All five of the Bull’s starters totaled double-figures in this game while Zach Lavine scored a game-high 35 on 11-19 shooting. Their marksmanship from deep range was a major factor going a red0hot 21-46 (46%.) Turnovers were the decisive factor in this game as their 24 in Friday’s contest settled it all.

Oklahoma City (6-6) will have a crack at going above .500 yet again when they square off against the Joel Embiid-less Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.

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