The game was close throughout until the Thunder pulled away in the final minutes.
Rose missed his first two field-goal attempts, but followed that up by hitting six straight shots – almost all of them being reverse lay-ups and even a version of a “Dream shake.” But, all game long, that improved outside shot, that Bulls’ fans have been hearing so much about during this off-season, simply wasn’t present. Rose was 8-for-15 shooting, with 20 points in the first half. But those seven misses all seemed to be wide open, outside jumpers. The Thunder clamped down defensively on Rose in the second half, and blocked nearly every lay-up that he attempted (Serge Ibaka, and former Bull, Thabo Sefolosha, combining for 8 of the 10 Thunder blocks).
And forcing other Bulls to score proved to be a great strategy for Scott Brooks. Luol Deng was forcing up contested shots for the entire game, and Ronnie Brewer couldn’t even throw a basketball in the water if he was on a boat, on Wednesday night.
Joakim Noah seemed to have a hand in every possession, for the Bulls – both offensively and defensively. He grabbed 19 rebounds in the loss. Also adding in 18 points, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals – which both led to fast break buckets in transition for the Bulls.
There were other positive notes for Chicago aside from Joakim. Taj Gibson had a great first half and C.J. Watson provided a spark on offense for Chicago. He hit some key shots while the game was still tight in the first three quarters and-a-half.
But overall, things didn’t go the Bulls’ way down-the-stretch. Derrick Rose is the only true point guard on their team; when he sits out you know that nearly every opposing team is going to outscore the Chicago 2nd unit. Tonight, when Rose wasn’t on the floor, the offense was stagnant. There wasn’t a lot of ball movement, which led to difficult shots being tossed up there by Deng, Gibson, and Brewer.
The Bulls were still in the game before coughing up the ball to Kevin Durant 3 times in under two minutes. Then Oklahoma City started to pull away by utilizing the fast break to perfection. The Thunder went on an 11-0 run to dim the lights on any Bulls’ hopes.
Despite the loss on Thursday night, there should be plenty of optimism for the team. The first day jitters for Tom Thibodeau didn’t seem to be there. The Chicago Bulls, new faces and all, look like a component basketball team. They actually looked like a cohesive unit on offense until Oklahoma City made some defensive adjustments.
Carlos Boozer will be returning before we know it. They have a rough November schedule – against the likes of the Spurs, Rockets, Mavs, Celtics, Blazers, Lakers, and Nuggets. But if the Bulls can stay afloat after that mesh of games then the rest of the NBA should beware.
Joakim Noah contributed 19 rebounds and 18 points (7-of-13 shooting).
Taj Gibson added 16 points (8-of-12 shooting) and 11 rebounds.
Derrick Rose finished with 28 points (12-of-31) and 6 assists.
For the Thunder, Westbrook dominated with 28 points (8-of-15), 10 rebounds, and 6 assists. Durant threw in 30 of his own.
The Bulls next game will be their home opener, on Saturday, against the Pistons on CSN at 7:00 PM CT.