Chicago Bulls vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Recap and Player Grades
The Chicago Bulls traveled to Wichita, Kansas, to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder. They took an 11-point lead into halftime, but the lead was completely erased in the third quarter as the Bulls played their worst game of the preseason.
They were sloppy on both ends of the ball through most of the game, and their lead was largely deceptive. The Thunder comeback was hardly a surprise, as failure to follow through on rotations on the defensive end and rushed shots and bad passes on the offensive end eventually caught up with the Bulls.
However, in the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose happened, and the Bulls pulled away down the stretch to beat the Thunder 104-95. And the Bulls, with a 7-0 record, clinched the utterly meaningless preseason crown.
Following are game grades for the Bulls starting five and an overall grade for the bench as well.
Point Guard: Derrick Rose, B+
Derrick Rose did what the Chicago Bulls needed him to do. He shook off a largely bad game through the first three quarters to have a magnificent finish and lead the Bulls to victory.
He struggled with his shot through the first three quarters. He was missing on his three-point shot, and he turned the ball over four times. Then, with the Bulls trailing 82-79, he stepped in at the seven-minute, 30-second mark of the game and absolutely took over.
He scored or assisted on 18 of the Bulls’ next 20 points, which included three makes from deep on three attempts. By the time the dust had settled, the Bulls had a commanding lead.
Not having a player who could take over the game last year was a constant weakness, and the takeover by Rose was another positive sign that he will be back to his MVP self once the regular season commences.
His final stat line was 26 points on 6-of-15 shooting , and 4-of-8 from deep. He hit on all 10 of his free throws, added six assists and grabbed four boards. His true shooting percentage on the night was .670. On the downside, he had five turnovers.
Rose gets knocked down on his grade in spite of his magnificent finish, because we can’t ignore his less than impressive start.
Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler, C-
Jimmy Butler returned to action after missing the three previous games and showed signs of rust on defense. Jeremy Lamb scored 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting, and while some of those came against the bench, more than a few of them came against Butler as well—mostly on blown assignments.
Offensively, he played decently, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 3-of-6 from the stripe. He added four rebounds and three assists, one of which was a nice feed to Carlos Boozer. He also had a steal and a block.
All in all, Butler looked like he was working out a few kinks, showing signs of a player coming back after a short layoff.
Small Forward: Luol Deng, A
Luol Deng is quietly having a pretty impressive preseason. Since a horrendous first game where he was 4-of-16 from the field, he’s been an efficient scorer, notching a .532 effective field-goal percentage in the next four games.
Wednesday night, he continued that performance, hitting on 8-of-15 overall and on 1-of-2 from deep, slightly raising his effective field-goal percentage to .535. He is also shooting a remarkable .583 from deep over that span.
One of the treys came at a critical juncture, with the Bulls up by three. It was the proverbial “nail in the coffin.”
Deng scored 20 points, added 10 rebounds and more or less contained Kevin Durant, who scored only 22 points, which for him, is something you can live with.
Power Forward: Carlos Boozer, B+
Carlos Boozer is such a Boozer. Not a boozer, mind you, but a Boozer. He has become such an enigma that he deserves to be a descriptor. He’ll be doing fantastic things one minute and stupid things the next, and the only way you can grade him is by pitting the things he did really well against the things he did badly.
There were moments Wednesday night when Boozer shined, and there were those where he had us face-palming. He had a marvelous baseline dunk that was positively vicious. Moments later he had a remarkable steal that converted into Luol Deng fast-break points.
But then later in the game, there were some blown assignments and missed shots that were instrumental in the Thunder’s comeback.
Overall there was more good than bad with Boozer, as he had 20 points and 14 boards, shooting 8-of-17 from the field. But we can’t ignore the stupid.
Center: Nazr Mohammed, C+
Nazr Mohammed vs. Kendrick Perkins was the most amazing head-to-head matchup you’ll ever see. All right, maybe I’m overstating that just a lot. In fact, probably the only thing that it served to show is that while the Bulls may have a need to add depth at center, at least they have solace in knowing they aren’t paying Perkins $9 million to be their starter.
Laughably, with four points, two boards and two assists, Mohammed “won” the matchup with his counterpart, who only had three points, three boards and two assists. But Mohammed had a block, too, and shot a better percentage, so he gets the win in the battle of big men who had little significance on the outcome of the game.
With Kirk Hinrich out and with Nazr Mohammed in the starting lineup, the Bulls bench was a little thinner than it would normally be, and the results were a mixed bag.
Taj Gibson had six boards and added eight points, but he was only 3-of-9 from the field. Tony Snell hit a three but was also partly responsible for Jeremy Lamb’s offensive outburst. Marquis Teague played nine minutes, and the only crooked numbers in his stat line were the two personal fouls and two turnovers.
Mike Dunleavy redeemed the bench, though, showing more chemistry with his new teammates, as he has progressively through the preseason. Tom Thibodeau went small and “put up his Dukes” as he threw out Deng, Boozer and Dunleavy on the court at the same time (yeah, I’m shameless, and I went there).
Dunleavy scored nine points, adding three assists, three boards and two threes. His play was key for the Bulls down the stretch on both ends of the court. He saves the bench form getting a horrible grade.