(Photo by Torrey Purvey)
By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY — Coming off one of its most tumultuous weeks in recent history, the Chicago Bulls easily could have laid down and let the season get away from them. In fact, many NBA analysts believed that is what they were going to do.
However, the Bulls are doing something unexpected. They are finding a way to overcome their locker room soap opera, and own two consecutive wins. The latest was a 128-100 trouncing of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“This is a good start, great start,” said Jimmy Butler, who scored 28 points to lead the Bulls. “Tough game on the road. I like it. Everyone played tough and stayed together. We got to do what we got to do.”
Butler shot 11 of 17 from the field and added five assists and four rebounds. Dwyane Wade posted 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, while Robin Lopez added 14 points.
The Bulls (25-25) got back to .500 in the opener of a six-game road trip.
“This was just a great team win, from start to finish,” Wade said. “We really came out and executed our game plan. Everybody was involved, the ball was moving around, going after certain matchups.”
Russell Westbrook compiled 28 points, eight assists and five rebounds for Oklahoma City. It was his second straight game without a triple-double.
“They didn’t take me out of my game,’ Westbrook said. “I was fine. They just played harder than we did.”
Jerami Grant came off the Thunder bench to post 15 points. Victor Oladipo shot 5 of 14 from the field and scored 12 points.
The loss was the third straight for the Thunder (28-22). They have yet to win a game since Enes Kanter fractured his arm against the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 26.
Butler started the night attacking his fellow All-Star, Westbrook, in the first quarter. Westbrook was unable to keep Butler from getting off a variety of shots as he knocked in a quick nine points.
Oklahoma City went to its small lineup for much of the second quarter. That put guard Andre Roberson at the “four,” allowing the Thunder to spread the court and hoist up 18 first-half 3-point attempts. Unfortunately for Oklahoma City, only five of those shots were successful.
Conversely, the Bulls pounded the ball into the paint and took advantage of Oklahoma City’s small lineup en route to a 55-47 lead at halftime.
Chicago’s advantage quickly ballooned to 21 in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Despite a ferocious chase-down block by Westbrook on Butler, Oklahoma City’s defense was porous.
The Thunder, who played the night before in San Antonio, looked as if they were a step behind, especially on the defensive side.
Westbrook took it upon himself to try to jump-start his team. He continued to attack and came away with rim-rattling dunks or was fouled. However, Oklahoma City could do nothing to slow down the Bulls.
“I don’t ever think Westbrook is going to be tired,” Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. “The guy is not human. Doesn’t even look like he sweats when he is on the floor. They feed off of him. That was never a thought.”
While Butler matched Westbrook point for stylish point, the Bulls star got help from Lopez, Wade, Paul Zipser and Rajon Rondo, who controlled the offense without scoring a point.
The Bulls took a 21-point lead into the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City was unable to get any closer.
“You can’t quit,” Westbrook said. “I tried to find a way to get us going, but offense wasn’t our problem. We just got to get some stops. Couldn’t get no stops.”