The Oklahoma City Thunder closed out their preseason slate of games with a 104-95 loss against the Chicago Bulls. This was a really good preseason game, unlike the first part of the ESPN double-header. The Thunder sat out Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka, but every other rotation player got a lot of playing time in their last game before the grind of the regular season begins.
The game was competitive throughout. The Thunder had a five-point lead with about eight minutes to play, but Scott Brooks decided to give Durant the rest of the night off and Rose put on a show late in the fourth and led his team to a victory.
The Thunder were lead by Kevin Durant, who finished this game with 22 points and 5 assists against 0 turnovers, and Reggie Jackson who contributed with 14 points and 6 assists, but also had 4 turnovers. Jeremy Lamb finally showed some signs on the offensive end. He repeatedly attacked the rim and looked a lot more comfortable out on the court. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting.
The Bulls were lead by Carlos Boozer, who finished the game with 20 points and 14 rebounds and feasted on a much smaller Perry Jones III during the early going of the game. Luol Deng chipped in with 20 points and 10 rebounds and Derrick Rose looked good again, especially in transition. He wrapped up the game with 26 points on 6-of-15 shooting.
What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Much like the other preseason losses, I think the Thunder win if Durant closes out the game. The Thunder had a terrible defensive first half and were slow to get going offensively after Durant picked up three quick fouls. Jeremy Lamb showed some good things during the first half. Lamb consistently attacked the rim and played with a lot more confidence. It just felt like he wasn't overthinking everything.
Missing Sefolosha and Ibaka really hurt the Thunder's defense, especially on the inside. Boozer and Deng both recorded double doubles while Steven Adams led the Thunder in rebounding with 7. Adams finished off his strong preseason with another nice game. He showed touch around the rim with both hands and his rebounding is always solid. Adams and Collison provided a nice lift for OKC in the start of the second quarter.
There was a lot of things that the Thunder need to improve, but I really liked what I saw from Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb. Jackson had some nice assists to his teammates and also scored the ball well in the second half. Lamb has been under the microscope so far because of the shoes people feel he has to fill and today was a good step forward to his development.
Also, Rose looks really, really good. His speed is unquestioned and he displayed an improved jumper late into the fourth quarter. Also, a quick shout-out to Andre Roberson for staying in front of Rose late into the game. That was great.
What was, overall, the main reason why the Thunder lost?
I think it was more of what the Bulls did than what the Thunder didn't do. Rose had a great fourth quarter and the Thunder had no answer for Boozer with Ibaka sitting this one out. The Bulls shot 50% from the three-point line as opposed to 23% by the Thunder.
Not having Durant down the stretch also doesn't help the cause for OKC. With Durant finishing this one out, I think the Thunder pull out this win.
What was a key statistic to understanding the game?
If you take a look at the rebound advantage by Chicago, you understand why the Thunder lost this game. The Bulls out-rebounded Oklahoma City 46 to 32 and that's not going to cut it. Sure, OKC was missing Ibaka, but the Bulls were without Noah who's a pretty good rebounder himself. Kendrick Perkins can't have 3 rebounds in 17 minutes and Durant has to be more of a presence on the glass.
Oklahoma City also needs consistent shooting from beyond-the-arc to avoid constant double-teaming on Durant. The team combined to shoot only 4-17 on the night.
What does this game mean to the Thunder tonight and going forward?
I actually think this game can go a long way for the Thunder. Lamb had a really solid game and he has something to build on heading into the regular season. Adams and Nick Collison showed some really good things while on the court together and Reggie Jackson had some good passes as well.
As far as the rebounding issues go, I think that will get cleaned up, but it should be a point of emphasis after this game. Although, Chicago pretty much out-rebounds every team they play.
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