By Nick Shepkowski-
UNITED CENTER (CBS) Here is Nick Shepkowski’s notebook from Thursday’s Bulls-Thunder game.
Fourth Quarter Collapse
Through three quarters at United Center, the Bulls looked what you’ve come to expect from a Tom Thibodeau coached team as they had held one of the NBA’s best scoring teams to just 66 points in 36 minutes as they held a 72-66 lead. Then the fourth quarter started, and seemingly nothing went the Bulls way.
“They’re hard to guard,” Tom Thibodeau said. “They made some plays and they closed it out.”
The Bulls were outscored 31-19 in the final frame, dropping their second contest of the season and falling 3-2 on the year. It was perhaps the leagues best scorer in Kevin Durant that did the Bulls in Thursday night.
“He hit some tough shots” Luol Deng said after the defeat. “I really thought I was on him but he’s (Durant) a great player.”
Durant finished with 24 points on the night, 10 of which came in the final period.
Thibodeau Not Changing Ways For Any Opponent
With an offense that has the scoring ability that the Oklahoma City Thunder present, one might think a defensive coach like Tom Thibodeau would spend more time creating an attack to slow them down. Those people would however be wrong.
“You try and keep it the same no matter who you’re playing but when you study their team you have to make decisions that you feel would give you your best shot at winning” Thibodeau said before Thursday night’s game.
“It’s challenging because of their greatness with guys like Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka and a guy like Kevin Martin off the bench – that puts enormous pressure on you.”
Ibaka, Durant and Westbrook combined for 61 of the Thunder’s 97 points. The 97 were the most points allowed by the Bulls all season long.
Long Distance Out Of Service
One thing the Bulls are yet to do this season is present a threat from beyond the three point arc as they entered Thursday’s contest just 11 of 42 from beyond the arc, good for an anemic 26.2%. The team went 5 of 15 from beyond the arc Thursday, a rise in attempts and in shooting percentage from their norm, but at 33.3%, still not where they want it to be.
“We have guys who have shown that in their career they’re capable,” Thibodeau said. “…We haven’t taken a lot of them but I do like offensively our ball movement, our willingness to share the ball and our driving/cutting has been very good. I think in time we’re going to shoot the ball very well.”
Deng’s Wrist Fine
A bit of a scare came in the fourth quarter when Luol Deng’s shot was blocked hard as the Bulls forward appeared to wince in pain. Deng stated after the contest that it was a jammed thumb and had nothing to do with his previous wrist injury.
Thunder Stars Weigh In On Rose
When Oklahoma City comes to United Center, in recent years it’s offered fans a chance to see two of the absolute finest young point guards in the league go head-to-head in Derrick Rose and the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.
“It (Rose’s injury) was tough, I can’t imagine what that feels like” Westbrook said. ” He’s done a great job of trying to bring himself to be better.”
When asked if Rose would return to one day be the same player that won the 2010-11 MVP, Westbrook had his answer with no hesitation: “No doubt in my mind he will, he works hard at what he does and he definitely will come back with better determination and definitely try and be better.”
“I just hope and pray he comes back as strong or stronger, I’ve been watching videos online and you can see how hard he’s been working” Kevin Durant said before Thursday’s contest.
“I’m looking forward to him (Rose) coming back, it’s good for the game” Durant stated.
Durant Enjoying Super-Teams
One thing that has changed mightily in the NBA in recent years is the idea of super teams. Whether it be the Heat, Celtics or Lakers, there’s no doubt the idea of them has changed the landscape of the league. Kevin Durant, despite losing James Harden, loves the setup he has in Oklahoma City.
“I think if you have a good, solid team and everyone plays together that you always give yourself a chance but it’s cool to have two very good players on your team, you’ll always go far” Durant stated.
“There are a lot of guys that have two or three guys that could be a star on any team and the league is definitely getting better” Durant went on to add. No doubt nights like the combined 61 points from himself, Ibaka and Westbrook will keep Durant liking the idea.
In addition to covering the Bulls for CBSChicago.com, Nick Shepkowski is the associate producer for The McNeil and Spiegel Show. For Bulls information all season long, follow him on Twitter @Shep670