The Bulls concluded their six-game home stand with a 97-85 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, breaking them even at 3-3 during their season-high two week stint at the United Center.
The Bulls (37-30) shot just 34.5 percent from the field, while the Thunder shot 41 percent, including going 13-for-25 from the three-point line, bringing their record to 0-11 when allowing opponents to shoot 50 percent of better from beyond the arc.
Despite their poor shooting, they entered the fourth quarter trailing 74-67. After two free throws by Oklahoma City to begin the period, the Bulls scored eight unanswered to put their deficit at just one with 10 minutes remaining. They wouldn’t score again until the 3:30 mark and the Thunder having seized control of the game with a 13-0 run.
Despite all the defensive attention, Kevin Durant finished with 35 points to go along with 12 rebounds and five assists. Russell Westbrook added 17, nine and nine in just over 28 minutes of action.
“I thought in the second half, we didn’t close to the (3-pt) line as hard as we needed to,” Bulls coach tom Thibodeau said. “13 three’s… Durant is going to do that to you and so will the pressure that Westbrook will put on you.”
Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 16 points off the bench. Jimmy Butler added 13 and despite feeling he could have played better, Joakim Noah added nine points, 12 rebounds and nine assists.
“I wish we could play them again,” Noah said. “We feel like we could have definitely done some things better. I feel like I didn’t play very well. I feel like I could’ve done some things better and I think there’s a lot of things we could’ve done better.”
The pace was in the Bulls favor throughout the first half as they were able to limit everyone not named Durant. They trailed 47-45 at halftime but Durant had 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while the rest of the Thunder were just 10-of-31 shooting.
Durant scored 13 in the third and the Thunder converted 8-of-16 from three in the second half.
“He’s a great player,” Noah said. ”We tried to put two on the ball and it opened up everything for everybody else. He demands a lot of attention and you have to give credit where credit is due. He’s the best player in the world right now.”
For Durant, his 35 points is the 40th time he’s has gone for 30 or more on the season and he’s gone 32 straight games with 25 or more, which is the longest such streak since Michael Jordan had 40 straight during the 1986-87 season.
“He’s a terrific scorer and can score in multiple ways,” Butler said. “It’s a tough cover. (I was) trying to make everything difficult for him. Trying to (limit) easy baskets, contest everything. He’ made shots tonight.”
The Bulls weren’t pleased with them breaking even during the home stand, but they get a chance to bounce back on the road Wednesday where they will play the Philadelphia 76ers, who have lost 21 straight.
“I thought we could have done better, but we’re alright,” Butler said. “We can’t change it now. We just have to move forward.”