The Thunder played one of their best wire-to-wire games last night against the Bulls, winning 109-104 in Chicago. They dominated the Bulls, and did so in the way Billy Donovan wants to, with huge advantages in transition and points in the paint.
OKC’s dominance was thanks in no small part to Jimmy Butler being affected by illness. Although he missed shootaround earlier in the day, Butler gave it a go regardless but managed just one point, two boards, and seven assists in 29 minutes of play before he left the game for good. He looked like a Walking Dead extra on the court, to be quite honest.
Still, though: having a healthy Butler wouldn’t have done much to help the interior onslaught brought on by the Thunder bigs. Steven Adams, tied with Dwyane Wade for the game’s leading scorer, had 22 points and five rebounds on 11-14 shooting. Enes Kanter scored 20 points with 11 rebounds and three assists on a hyper-efficient 9-11 shooting. The pair combined for a +41 on the night, and the Thunder nearly doubled up the Bulls’ points in the paint, 60 to 36.
Kanter especially has play magnificently as of late. He’s showing shades of being an excellent post passer, as evidenced by this Steven Adams jam:
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) January 10, 2017
Adams’ and Kanter’s outlet passing combined with Russell Westbrook’s afterburners made for a marvelous night in transition for the Thunder. They outnumbered the Bulls 25 to 4 in transition points on the game despite turning the ball over nearly the same amount of times as the Bulls.
“They’re third in the league in fast-break points, all because of Westbrook,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He gets it down fast and does a great job of dropping it off. Their bigs are great rim runners. They get a lot accomplished in the post in transition as well. It’s a full team awareness issue with Westbrook.”
That kind of transition unselfishness will make a coach proud.
“Russell was an incredible catalyst today from the start with the way he passed and got everybody involved,” Billy Donovan said. “Our big guys passed the ball extremely well out of the low post and we were really unselfish on the fast break.”
Russell Westbrook missed his 18th triple-double by just one rebound–Westbrook finished the game with 21 points, nine rebounds, and 14 assists. It was the fourth time all season Westbrook has been one rebound or assist shy of a triple-double. Russ has been hoisting–and making–threes at a high rate in the past several games, but he shot just 1-7 from deep against the Bulls.
Dwyane Wade led the way for the Bulls with 22 points. Michael Carter-Williams added 15.
The Thunder improve to 23-16, while the Bulls fall to 19-19. Next up: OKC tries to make it three straight as they take on the Grizzlies at home.