This game came down to the super-stars showing that they are indeed special players. When healthy, Derrick Rose is still a force. He shook off early shooting woes and got hot and finished the game with 29 points on 12-25 from the field. Rose looked out of sync again early in the game, and then started to drive to the hoop to make easier baskets. Eventually, he found his touch and hit some 14 footers to put away a powerful Thunder team, 104-98, Thursday in Chicago.
The Bulls won this game because their stars, Rose and Jimmy Butler particularly, out-shined Kevin Durant (33) and Russell Westbrook (20). Butler played against Durant and “held” him to 33 points. Westbrook was a bit off his game, going 7-18. Serge Ibaka added 17 points. Jimmy Butler scored 26 points and hit 4 of 5 treys. He had a strong game. Chicago also got a double-double from Pau Gasol who added 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Chicago gave a much better effort after their blow-out loss to Charlotte in which they never really were in the game. The Bulls were in this one, leading 57-50 at half, and had a 10 point advantage early in the 4th. But the Thunder roared back and tied the game. The game went back and forth until Rose took over down the stretch, making key baskets. “I know who I am,” Rose said post-game. He believes he can play at a high level and tonight that was the case. His eye sight might be blurred but his spirit is undaunted. And, his legs appear to be in good shape. He has been injured so often in his career, fans wince when he winces, fearing another injury.
The Bulls bench had a good game, with Taj Gibson and Tony Snell hitting for 9 points each. Doug McDermott, in a starting role had 9 points. F Nikola Mirotic appears to be in a slump and was 1-5 from the floor and not a factor.
This was a good win for the Bulls. They showed they can beat a team many predict to be in the hunt deep in the post-season. The Bulls showed good energy, and shot well enough, 44%, to stay in this game. At one point they had an eight + advantage on the boards, but the Thunder evened it out in the second half. The Bulls finished with 47 rebounds in the game.
TNT analyst Charles Barkley reminded the viewing audience that these are “elite teams.” Both incidentally, have rookie head coaches, Billy Donovan on the sidelines for Oklahoma City, and Fred Hoiberg for the Bulls.
It was a “feel good” win for Chicago. But the NBA is relentless. A new game is around the corner and one has to pocket this one and move on.