Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Andy Bailey@@AndrewDBaileyFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2013

The Oklahoma City Thunder (21-4) coasted to a 107-95 victory over the terribly shorthanded Chicago Bulls (9-16) on Thursday night.

OKC was led by a complete performance from Kevin Durant, who posted 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Guards Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson pitched in 20 and 18 points respectively.

The Bulls entered the game without stars Derrick Rose and Luol Deng and backup point guard Kirk Hinrich. Then, they lost starting shooting guard Jimmy Butler to an ankle sprain in the second quarter of Thursday night's game.

They remained characteristically competitive, but against the team with the NBA's best record, they simply didn't have enough firepower to pose a legitimate threat.


Key Player Grades

Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder, Small Forward

At the conclusion of his 2012-13 campaign, Durant became just the sixth player in NBA history to shoot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free-throw line for an entire season.

He's slowly but surely working his way back up to 50-40-90 territory in 2013-14. Thursday, he shot 13-of-20 from the field, 4-of-5 from three and 2-of-2 from the line. His percentages are now 49.4, 42.5 and 88.

At this point, it's hard to imagine anyone in the league having the ability to slow him down.

He hit several shots in this game that would have been extremely difficult for anyone else his size. He somehow made them look nonchalant.

And it's not just about scoring with KD anymore. He adds elements to his game every year. This season, he's averaging 4.9 assists and 8.2 rebounds a game.

The gap between he and LeBron James is narrowing, and KD's teammates appreciate it:

Grade: A+


Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder, Point Guard

More than just about any other time I've watched him, Westbrook seemed intent more on running the team and being a facilitator than hunting his own shot.

In addition to the 20 points he scored on 7-of-12 shooting, he dished out 10 assists and seemed particularly aware of Durant's location at all times.

Check out their chemistry on this breakaway:

On a couple possessions, Westbrook simply entered the ball to Durant in the post and watched him go to work. And who could blame him with the plays KD made.

Grade: A


Serge Ibaka, OKC Thunder, Power Forward

Serge Ibaka made almost no impact on this game due mostly to foul trouble. He played just 21 minutes and finished with five fouls and five points

But that should have been enough time to collect more than three rebounds. Credit Chicago's Joakim Noah for attacking early and creating the initial foul problems.

He did have one impressive sequence when he blocked back-to-back shot attempts at the rim, showing his prowess as a rim protector. His presence there will be very important in bigger games.

Grade: D


Thabo Sefolosha, OKC Thunder, Shooting Guard

After shooting over 40 percent from three-point range in each of the last two seasons, Thabo Sefolosha has really struggled to find the range in 2013-14.

The bad shooting continued on Thursday night, as he finished 1-of-4 from downtown.

He still managed to score 10 points and was his typically solid self on the defensive end.

Grade: C


Kendrick Perkins, OKC Thunder, Center

With each game, it's becoming more and more difficult to come up with reasons for Kendrick Perkins to be on the floor, let alone starting.

On Thursday night, he played 21 minutes, went 0-of-0 from the field for 0 points and grabbed four rebounds. He's almost completely unnoticeable until he makes some glaring mistake or barks at the ref over an obvious foul. 

Grade: F


Reggie Jackson, OKC Thunder, Point Guard/Shooting Guard

Jackson is really growing into that James Harden role. His explosiveness with the ball doesn't appear to be too far behind Westbrook's. And like Harden, he understands the importance of changing pace.

Against the Bulls on Thursday, he cut, slashed and drove his way to an impressive 8-of-12 shooting performance. He also knocked down both his three-point attempts, which is a great sign since he came into this game shooting 29.3 percent from outside.

Grade: A


Bench, OKC Thunder

This bench was perceived to be a potential weakness for the Thunder heading into this season. But the fantastic play of Jackson, as well as the development of Jeremy Lamb and Steven Adams has significantly altered that outlook.

Lamb didn't shoot great in this game (3-of-11), but he had a couple dunks that showcased his ridiculous athleticism. His shooting stroke was also on display in a high-arching three that he nailed right in the face of Tony Snell.

As for Adams, I can't think of one conceivable reason for him to be playing behind Perkins. The difference in energy and activity level between the two is truly night and day. Against the Bulls, he finished with seven rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes. 

Then there's old faithful, Nick Collison. He scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting in 20 minutes.

Grade: B+


Joakim Noah, Chicago Bulls, Center

You know the Bulls are in a tight spot when they have to turn to Noah for offense. The injury problems are pretty depressing at this point.

But if you're a Bulls fan, you can take some comfort in the fact that Noah rose to the challenge and posted a big double-double.

He went 8-of-17 from the field, scoring 23 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

Grade: A


Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls, Power Forward

Chicago needs Boozer to step up offensively as well. Probably more than Noah, since he does have a reputation as someone who was once a 20-10 guy.

That did not happen against the Thunder. Boozer went just 2-of-7 from the field for 10 points and made very little impact on either end of the court.

He'll barely pass because of nine rebounds and a near double-double.

Grade: C-


Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls, Shooting Guard/Small Forward

As was mentioned in the intro, Butler had to leave this game early. With all the injuries Chicago's already dealing with, this feels like salt in the wound.

Before he went down, Butler went 3-of-7 from the free-throw line for three points.

Grade: Incomplete


Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls, Small Forward/Shooting Guard

Mike Dunleavy hit a couple timely threes to keep the Bulls within striking distance, but it just wasn't enough.

He finished with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting and also dished out six assists.

He also had the unfortunate opportunity to defend Durant at times. Obviously, he didn't do great with that assignment, but who does?

Grade: C+


D.J. Augustin, Chicago Bulls, Point Guard

This was a pretty ugly game for the Bulls, but their recently signed point guard D.J. Augustin was solid.

He was third on the team in scoring with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and he dished out five assists.

No one expects him to be D-Rose, but stepping into that role is tough. Several guys have been called upon to do it over the last few years to varying degrees of success. If Chicago wants to make the playoffs, Augustin may need to be better than previous Rose replacements.

Grade: B


Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls, Power Forward/Center

If there's any team out there willing to take on Boozer's contract, the Bulls need to think about pulling the trigger on a deal.

This core isn't going to compete for a title this year or in the foreseeable future, and Taj Gibson looks more than ready to take over as the starting 4.

Gibson is a defensive specialist, and he and Noah have great chemistry as a duo on that end. And now, his offense is steadily catching up to his defense.

Against the Thunder, he scored 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, grabbed six rebounds, dished out three assists and blocked two shots.

Grade: A


Bench, Chicago Bulls

Because of the injury to Butler, Tony Snell actually played the most minutes of any Bull off the bench. And it was a rough go for him. 

He went 4-of-15 from the field, including 2-of-11 from three-point range for 10 points. You can't fault his effort, though, as he hustled on both ends of the floor and collected eight rebounds from the shooting guard position.

In addition to Gibson and Snell, Marquis Teague and Nazr Mohammed went a combined 1-of-5 from the field.

Grade: D+


What's Next?


The Bulls will be back at home on Saturday where they will play the Cleveland Cavaliers at 8 p.m. ET.

Both teams are well below .500 but are headed in opposite directions. The Cavs have been a bit better of late, and the Bulls are running into the ground with all these injuries.

A loss at home to a division rival would hurt.



The Thunder will go on the road to take on the traditional Western Conference powerhouse San Antonio Spurs on Saturday at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Both teams figure to be in the hunt for the top seed in the conference.


For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.


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