The Chicago Bulls took on the Oklahoma City Thunder at home on Friday, January 13th. Both teams entered the game with identical 19-23 records, which meant different things to each team. The Thunder had the fourth-worst record in the NBA last season while the Bulls spent a decent amount of time as contenders in the 21-22 season.
For the Thunder, 19-23 has them just outside of the playoff picture in the Western Conference. That's a win! Look at them grow! Regarding the Bulls, their record has them in a similar spot in the East. That's bad! Chicago had much higher expectations for this year, and they have consistently fallen way short of them.
The Set Up
Chicago entered this game coming off of two straight losses. In their last matchup with the Washington Wizards, who have a worse record than Chicago and were playing without their best players, the Bulls—without DeMar DeRozan—fell short 100-97. In that game, Zach LaVine poured in 38 points. Meanwhile, the rest of the Bulls' players, you know, also showed up and participated.
Oklahoma City came into the match 5-5 in their last 10 games and coming off a big victory over the Philadelphia 76ers. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 37 points, posted 8 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists in a star performance.
DeRozan was still out of the lineup for this one, which put the Bulls at a disadvantage early. In the first quarter, the Bulls fell into a hole for a bit through a mix of not playing defense and not rebounding. At one point in time, the Bulls trailed by 12. Still, they didn't give up. Behind 10 points from LaVine on 5/5 shooting from the free throw line and 6 points from Coby White, who keeps coming up in trade rumors, off the bench. Every Bulls player who played in the first quarter scored.
In the second quarter, the Bulls got off to a hot start. Coby White continued to pour in threes and Alex Caruso threw down an emphatic dunk early on. Things were looking up as Chicago took a slight lead.
Then, things went back down again rather quickly. As we've seen time and time again, the Bulls put forth little to no effort on defense. Rather, they either gave up wide open shots or fouled—there was really no in-between. In the first half, the Thunder shot 53% from the field, 47% from deep, and 82% from the line on 17 free throw attempts. Oklahoma City finished the half with a comically-high 72 points. They were just out there playing 2K on rookie mode.
Meanwhile, the Bulls' strategy of missing shots and turning the ball over oddly found little success. LaVine shot just 20% in the half, but he had 14 points on 9/9 shooting from the line due to his DeRozan impression of getting fouled. Coby White matched him with 14 on 3/6 shooting from deep.
The third quarter saw the Bulls putting in more of an effort. It was almost like a complete reversal of their showing against the Wizards on Wednesday. The score got to a point where the Thunder were up 80-62, but Chicago kept fighting, and the third frame ended 91-90 with Oklahoma City holding onto just a one-point lead.
Patrick Williams sprang to life in the third, ending the quarter with 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting. He was also 4/4 from the line, which is an encouraging sign that he is attacking the basket more. It seemed like a Bulls comeback was brewing.
The Thunder started the fourth quarter on a 13-4 run as the Bulls carelessly turned the ball over again and again. The Thunder went out and continued to outwork Chicago, even as they had they game handily won. Simply put, Oklahoma City wanted it. The Bulls were just apathetic. At the final buzzer, the Thunder took it 124-110.
LaVine had 25 points on 14/15 shooting from the line. White put up 19 points on 4/9 from deep. Nikola Vucevic had a double-double with 19 and 11, and Williams ended up with the 18 he had at the end of the third.
What's On Tap Next?
Next up, the Bulls host the Golden State Warriors at the United Center on Sunday, December 15th at 2:30 PM. The Warriors are 20-21 on the season and on a three-game losing streak just like the Bulls. You know what that means, right? The Warriors are probably close to snapping their streak.