With a flurry of Thunder absences, the Oklahoma City Thunder fell to the Chicago Bulls 123-102 Tuesday evening. The Thunder dropped to 12th in the West following their defeat, currently locked in a 17-23 tie with the New Orleans Pelicans — who own the tiebreaker. For the Chicago Bulls, their victory positioned themselves a half-game back from the 8th seed, now situated with a 18-20 record in the East.
Oklahoma City missed out on services from Lu Dort, Darius Bazely, and Al Horford for consecutive games on Tuesday, leading to Aleksej Pokusevksi, Isaiah Roby, and Moses Brown making starts in their absences. The Thunder struggled to surface much action in beginning stages, plummeting to an early 8-2 deficit. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander caught rhythm with 7 of the teams first 11 points, however a flurry of Bulls triples propped themselves up to a double-digit lead five minutes into the night. Oklahoma City’s offensive presence was evident in the first twelve, shooting 48%, but it hardly matched the Bulls’ 64% shooting clinic; ultimately finding themselves down 42-28 entering the second. Moses Brown glistened in the first, steaming out 7 points and 5 rebounds, including a tip-drill that garnered four-offensive rebounds — punctuated with a rim-ratting jam.
The Thunder dialed up a 12-3 run upon the quarter’s onset, erasing the The Bulls’ lead to single-digits hastily. Matters only worsened for Chicago as a pairing of Justin Jackson field goals and a Moses Brown putback slam sank the game to 49-46 five minutes into the period — later stealing the lead off a Kenrich Williams three. The Bulls weren’t going away easy, actually retaining a double-digit lead minutes later, but a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander buzzer-beater kept this game single-digits at 71-63 by half.
Teams shot percentages were separated by less than a point off conversion rates in the low fifties, but the Bulls’ 8-to-5 advantage from downtown swung the pendulum in their direction. Zach LaVine reeked havoc into the Thunder amassing 20 points (7-of-11 FG) while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Moses Brown dropped 17 and 14 points respectively to ease the blowback.
Minimal action traversed in the first segment of run until a Moses Brown shooting foul was challenged — it was successful. The newfound traction for the Thunder lasted for mere seconds as the Bulls responded to stake a 15 point lead just possessions later. Oklahoma City let off a variety of baskets particularly inside for the quarter, but Zach LaVine’s precision for 20 points in the quarter opened the lead to 20, closing at 23 going to the fourth, 102-79.
Mark Daigneault opted to bottle SGA for the fourth quarter, instead experimenting with the second unit for the majority of the quarter. Oklahoma City fell down as large as 25, but their valiant efforts at creating open looks deserve praise.
Zach LaVine controlled the floor at all times, imposing his will for 40 points (15-of-20 FG) while Lauri Markannen contributed 22 points (7-of-14 FG) for Chicago.
Although the Thunder found themselves down large figures for the majority of Tuesday’s contest, it didn’t prevent seven members from cracking double-digits.
Moses Brown was an all out juggernaut, manhandling Bulls bigs for 20 points (9-of-16 FG), 16 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Brown staked his name into franchise history books, logging the second 20 point, 15 rebound, 5 block game next to only Serge Ibaka. Ibaka, 24 at the time, recorded a 21 point, 15 rebound, 5 block statline in a January 2014 matchup against the Houston Rockets — his matchup? Terrance Jones.
Brown split time against Lauri Markannen and Wendell Carter Jr. in his 29 minutes of run. Brown used his largest size advantage of the year in full-force, making the Bulls look like a G-League team petrified at the sight of his interior presence. Brown showcased this with a whopping 8 offensive rebounds on Chicago, a majority of which came off rapid succession tip drills. The 7-foot-2 big played as per usual, setting grueling high-ball screens for Thunder guards, ultimately netting open looks under the basket — yielding rim-denting slams.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander provided a team-high 21 points (10-of-17 FG,) but his paltry 1 rebound and 1 assist gathered made this an atypical game for the 22-year-old. SGA found his safeguard right inside the basket, using the aforementioned Moses Brown screens to sneak in for 18 points in the paint.
Kenrich Williams sparked the bench with 14 points (6-of-9 FG), 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Ty Jerome created a suplus of looks for himself and others with 11 points (4-of-7 FG), and 3 assists nailing 2-of-3 triples. Isaiah Roby sampled a little bit of everything with 11 points (4-of-9 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals in 31 minutes. Justin Jackson carved out all 10 of his points excluding the three on 4-of-10 shooting going to his trademarked runner to parlay his earnings.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (17-23) will take a day of rest before facing the Atlanta Hawks (20-20) Thursday evening.