Tag Archives: Oklahoma City Thunder

Note-A-Bulls: Bulls bring the noise in a blowout win over the Thunder

Well the Bulls did it again. They played a great basketball game on the road against a quality team and made you wonder just how in the heck the Bulls (25-25) are a .500 team through 50 games this season. This W came in blowout fashion as the Thunder (28-22) lost their third straight since Enes Kanter went down with an injury. Let’s take a further look at how the Bulls managed a 128-100 win after all of their turmoil of the past week.

  • The first quarter was fairly even after the Bulls jumped out to an early nine-point lead. But poor shooting and general inconsistent movement on offense led to a fairly stagnant quarter as the Bulls clung to a 21-20 advantage after one.
  • The following two quarters decided this one. The Bulls shot lights out after the first while even Russell Westbrook couldn’t jumpstart the OKC offense in this one. The Bulls outscored the Thunder 73-53 over the middle two stanzas thanks to scoring from across the board (six Bulls in double-figures) while OKC became a one-man show.
  • It’s easy to attribute this game to a poor shooting night for one team (38% for OKC) combined with an unseasonably hot shooting game from the other (60% for the Bulls) but there was more to it in this one. The Bulls showed the kind of energy on both ends of the court that they often display against quality teas (especially on national TV for some reason). The result, more movement off the ball on offense creating more space and getting back on defense leading to minimal fast break points for OKC (18 on the night).
  • Finding consistency has been the issue ever since Hoiberg took over at the start of last year as they proved tonight they can beat anyone on any given night. While this one feels nice, knowing that they’ve lost home games to the Mavs and Heat take some shine out of it. Stringing five of these types of games together will be essential in what is shaping up to be a jam-packed back end of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
  • There were many positive takeaways on the night but one I want to focus on is Jerian Grant. He didn’t end with the best line 12 points, three assists, three rebounds on 5/7 shooting, but it was his energy in the first that got this team going. Grant had great vision, especially early on, and played very competent defense against a quality backcourt for the Thunder. If he can hit on his jumper like he did tonight with any consistency, Grant may find himself more ingrained in the rotation.
  • The disgruntled duo of Wade and Butler had themselves games as well. Wade ended the night with 18/7/7 on 7/12 shooting while posting a ridiculous +32 on the night. It still astounds me how crafty the veteran can be even after planting his pivot foot. Whether it’s drawing contact to get to the line or finding an open shot, Wade has one of the best pivot games in The Association.
  • Meanwhile Jimmy did Jimmy things posting 28 points on 11/17 shooting with a ho-hum five dimes, four boards, and three robberies against the Thunder. Every time OKC looked like they might creep back into it Butler would get aggressive and bully his way to the basket for an easy layup or getting to the line. He’s what Stacey King used to call Derrick Rose, a “run stopper”.
  • As for the Thunder, the lone bright spot on the evening was the jaw-dropping Russ Westbrook. Westbrook scored 28 points, assisted eight times, and grabbed five rebounds. While he still hasn’t recorded a triple-double against the Bulls (one of only three teams that can claim this), the little offense the Thunder did generate on Wednesday night was a result of him. Even being down 20, Russ was able to throw down a dunk that got me off my couch and generally makes everyone look like they’re in slow motion.
  • It’s obvious, however, that this team misses Enes Kanter. This team was lacking serious depth before the injury, meaning their bench is getting exposed now as there starters are forced to exhaust themselves throughout the game. I’m sure we’ll see a similar pattern as tonight, where the Thunder will stick around early before their depth catches up with them later in ball games. Russ can’t win games by himself every night despite what he might think.
  • Up Next: The Bulls play The Beard on Friday night in Houston as their second game of a six game road trip.

 

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Note-A-Bulls: An ill Jimmy Butler leaves Bulls short-handed in loss to OKC

Well we’re 38 games into the 2016-2017 Chicago Bulls season, and they are who we thought they were: a team mired in mediocrity (thanks for the term Rick Hahn) with no clear direction. The Bulls need to take a page out of the White Sox playbook and sell their assets to rebuild for the future. Being a .500 team and the 7th seed in the East with an aging roster may be the worst situation in the NBA right now, minus the dumpster fire that is the Nets who mortgaged their future for a couple 40 years old a few years back. Jimmy deserves better, Hoiberg deserves a chance, and this fan base deserves better. Now let’s take a look at the 109-94 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder (23-16) that dropped the Bulls to 19-19.

  • With Jimmy Butler suffering from the flu, the stud Guard could not duplicate the effort of his Herculean predecessor (MJ) from the ’97 Finals. Butler finished with just a singular point on 0/6 shooting from the field and clearly wasn’t himself, but credit his competitive nature for gutting out 29 minutes that could not have felt good for him. Without Jimmy, the Bulls were down to one alpha for the night.
  • Dwyane Wade was the most consistent threat for the Bulls throughout the night, scoring 22 on 7/16 shooting while also distributing six dimes. Wade also was able to get to the line on a consistent basis going 6/8 on the night. However, Wade could not do it all by himself on this night as he could not keep up with the electric Thunder attack.
  • Fan favorite Cristiano Felicio had himself a nice game, going for a double-double (11 points and 11 boards) on an efficient 5/6 shooting. Felicio’s energy is a breath of fresh air for this Bulls team and he almost always has an impact with his hustle when he’s on the floor. Obviously he will never be a star in this league, but Felicio has proven himself an asset to bring off the bench.
  • Unfortunately, the rest of the Bulls attack was meager to say the least. As a whole, the Bulls shot an appalling 40% (34/84) that would struggle to keep you competitive in a Big Ten brawl. This team is too one-dimensional to confuse any defense and not athletic enough to get to the hoop when that;s their most effective way to score. This team is not built to highlight their strengths or their coaches preferred game plan. For a coach that needs someone to space the floor for his plan to be executed, he hasn’t had the benefit of a bonafide starter whose strength that is.
  • Per usual, Russell Westbrook led the Thunder charge on Monday night. The California native had himself a near triple-double (an off night for him) with 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds. Westbrook is absolutely electric on a basis that is hard to comprehend. To play with that much fire night in and night out is truly a pleasure to watch for fans of the game.
  • Steven Adams also played a nice complimentary piece tonight scoring 22 on 11/14 shooting from the floor. Adams gives this team a much needed inside presence and needs to bring his scoring ability on a more consistent basis for the Thunder to be competitive in the top-heavy West.
  • Up Next: The Bulls head to our nations capital to take on the Wizard sans Butler and Wade. Apparently Rondo is scheduled to try and contain Wall, should be quite the spectacle.

BULLet Points: Merry Christmas! Bulls complete sweep of Thunder

  • The Bulls headed into rockin’ Oklahoma City and delivered a delightful Christmas gift in the form of a 105-96 victory. The Bulls led the entire 48 minutes. After a few demoralizing losses to inferior teams, Fred Hoiberg and co. needed this one.
  • Jimmy Butler was the man from start to finish. He pulled off highlight plays the entire game, with this buzzer beater worth watching a few more times:

  • Butler finished with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists, and four steals. He also did a great job containing Kevin Durant as much as humanly possible, consistently making him work to get his 29 points. Derrick Rose had a moderately encouraging day as well, finishing with 19 points and four rebounds on 7/18 shooting. He struggled to distribute the ball, finishing with just one assist.
  • In the absence of Joakim Noah (shoulder), the rest of the frontcourt stepped up in a big way. Nikola Mirotic started at small forward once again, and it actually worked out very nicely for Fred Hoiberg and the Bulls. Mirotic was a team-high +20 in only 16 minutes, adding seven rebounds and two blocks.
  • Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol were beasts. Gibson had 13 points and 10 boards in 34 minutes while Gasol was everywhere, tallying 21 points, 13 rebounds, and six dimes. The Thunder just don’t have anyone capable of stopping Gasol consistently inside, especially with Steven Adams in foul trouble early on. It was a great game for the duo, and hopefully a sign of more to come. The Bulls badly need more offensive production out of the frontcourt. With Joakim Noah out, the continued scoring of Gasol in particular will be critical.
  • Bobby Portis got another chance to shine with Noah out for a few weeks. His energy and offensive skill set are obviously exciting (the three point stroke!), but Portis is still raw. He has trouble guarding his man and still hasn’t learned the difference between an available shot and a good one. I’m looking forward to him getting more rotation minutes and improving. He had seven points, five rebounds, and three assists in 20 minutes.
  • The problem for the Thunder was a void of scoring from anyone besides Durant and Russell Westbrook, who tallied 26 points along with seven rebounds, eight assists, and six (!) steals. Serge Ibaka struggled mightily to hit anything and aside from Enes Kanter (a legitimately useful 14 and 12), none of Oklahoma City’s secondary options were able to provide a big enough boost.
  • Coming up: the Bulls head to Dallas tomorrow night for a 7:30 matchup with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks.

BULLet Points: Vintage Rose performance leads to win over Thunder

After getting wrecked by Charlotte on Tuesday night, the Bulls returned to the United Center to host the Oklahoma City Thunder, with both teams entering the night at 3-2.  Given the way Chicago’s defense looked against a paltry Hornets offense on Tuesday, stopping the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook looked to be a difficult task. Surprisingly, Oklahoma City’s offense couldn’t produce enough to overcome an early deficit.

  • In the first half, Chicago capitalized on a poor stretch of shooting from the Thunder to recover from being down 28-25 when the first quarter ended. Jimmy Butler led the Bulls to a 57-50 lead with 21 points at the half. He hit four of his five threes in the game, and he’s drained a scorching 57% of his triples this season.
  • Despite being outscored 23-19 in the third quarter, the Bulls maintained a fairly firm lead even as the game progressed well into the fourth quarter. The Thunder made a late run, but that’s when Derrick Rose finally provided some of the explosiveness he was once known for. It’s been a while since he’s looked as good as he did in the final stretch as he did in this game; Rose made 11/16 shots after missing eight of his first nine. He took charge in a way that he just had not been able to at all so far this season.
  • Rumors that Derrick might be on the way out of Chicago have begun to surface again. Brian Windhorst of ESPN speculated on SportsCenter that the Bulls/Rose breakup has already begun. Whatever you might think, the fact that he’s signed for over $40 million through 2017 will make it a major challenge to move on from him before then.
  • Rose did spend extra time working on his jump shot with Fred Hoiberg prior to Thursday’s game, and his 29 points (12 of which came in the fourth quarter) were critical as he closed out the Thunder. He ended up shooting 12 for 25, so the extra work may have been just what he needed.
  • Thursday’s game provided a glimpse of what the Bulls might be capable of when both Rose and Jimmy Butler are scoring. Butler had 26 points to Rose’s 29. Pau Gasol added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
  • It was encouraging to see Joakim Noah play as much as he did (a season-high 26 minutes) and contribute seven rebounds and four assists. He stepped up his game for the big stage, and the Bulls were far more successful in his minutes compared to Pau Gasol’s. His role on the team has been in flux so far this year, but in the absence of a strong performance from Nikola Mirotic (just two points and four rebounds), Noah filled in very nicely.
  • Kevin Durant poured in 33 points, but Jimmy Butler made him work for them. Even so, Durant has one of the most effortless-looking jumpers in the NBA. Russell Westbrook struggled late but still put up a 20 point, ten assist, eight rebound line. He wasn’t as active as usual, but the Thunder were playing their fourth game in five nights.
  • After making his debut on Tuesday, Bobby Portis didn’t see any time in Thursday’s game. Granted, it was a close one from start to finish, but I would like to see him get at least a few more minutes on a regular basis. His defense is shaky, but after six games, he has appeared in just one of them. He needs time on the floor.
  • From here, the Bulls will remain at home to face the 2-1 Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Making Sense of Trade Deadline MADNESS

This past Thursday was the most amazing trade deadline in years for us basketball junkies. So much occurred in the 11th hour before the clock hit 3:00 PM EST. Twitter was a tweeting as deals were being reported left and right and everything was coming at us at once. All of this was really hard to digest right away, and still a few days later it’s not entirely clear what every team was thinking. So here’s your guide through what actually went down, and why.

Before we get to the “nitty-gritty” and the game of “point guard roulette” that was played, lets quickly recap all the minor trades that transpired. I’m going to skip over the really inconsequential moves because nobody wants to hear my rambling thoughts on Pablo Prigioni going from New York to Houston, or why Ramon Sessions was traded for the 147th time. Here we go…

Celtics acquire Isaiah Thomas from Suns for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers

Why did it happen?

The Celtics have been pretty fond of Isaiah Thomas dating back to last off-season. Danny Ainge saw an opening to get him and in exchange gave away one of their many future 1st round picks. The Celtics are the most “un-tanky” of all the “tankiest” teams in the league (those are words now). Boston is really not helping themselves only being bad enough to secure the somewhere around 11th pick in lottery. Suns pick up a future asset and cut their losses with the ill-fated Thomas signing.

76ers trade K.J. McDaniels to Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and 2015 second-round pick

Why did it happen?

K.J. McDaniels is on a goofy one year deal and because of his play this year some team is likely to give him an offer sheet that the Sixers aren’t interested in paying. Further, many in Philadelphia are saying that Sam Hinkie doesn’t really want to deal with K.J.’s agent after botching the initial contract negotiations. Plus the Sixers really like Isaiah Canaan and have tracked him since last year’s draft, and now have an obvious void at PG. Houston grabs another wing player who can defend really well and could see minutes in the playoffs.

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Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young

Why did it happen?

Flip Saunders is a genius, and when I say genius, I mean he makes other GM’s look like geniuses. T’Wolves traded a first round pick for 50 games of Thad Young, and then traded Thad so they could have a family reunion with the corpse of KG. Now they may want to extend the contract of said corpse. Flip you continue to amaze us all.

Trail Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee from Nuggets in exchange for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a lottery-protected 2016 first round draft pick

Why did it happen?

Blazers get a key pickup in Afflalo who can provide scoring off the bench, something Portland needs desperately. Only costs them a future first rounder, and likely a pick that will land between 22-30. Nuggets who are now in a rebuild, acquire an asset.

All of this brings us to one of the biggest trade deadline clusterf&*%s we’ve ever seen…let’s dive into it.

In three-team trade, the Thunder acquire Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Jazz for Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett and two draft picks (one from the Pistons); Oklahoma City also receives D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler from Detroit for Reggie Jackson.

Why did it happen?

Let’s start with the Jazz. Kanter publicly announced he wanted out, Utah obliged and picked up some future draft picks. The Jazz are eager to start the Rudy Gobert era, and losing Kanter probably won’t haunt them. Detroit upgraded the PG position in hopes to squeeze into one of the final playoff spots in the East this season and prepare for the future. Reggie is for sure an upgrade from Augustin, and they could choose to resign him this off-season as an insurance policy if Brandon Jennings recovery is stunted. But that is something Stan Van Gundy will have to attend to later. They desperately want to make the playoffs, that’s why the deal went down.

Which brings us to OKC, who is a clear winner in this trade. They discarded an unhappy Reggie Jackson for a low post threat in Kanter, as well as some solid bench pieces in Augustin, Singler, and Novak. This gives OKC a really deep roster which could spur them to a title run this year. Augustin can definitely hold his own as a backup PG; Kanter at times is a very gifted low post scorer and may command double teams on some nights. They also acquire two lights-out three point shooters that could hit some big shots during the playoffs with so much defensive attention constantly going towards Durant and Westbrook.

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In three-team trade, Suns send Goran and Zoran Dragic to Heat in exchange for Danny Granger and two draft picks, while also acquiring John Salmons from Pelicans; New Orleans gets Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams from Miami.

Why did it happen?

Dragic was emphatic over the displeasure he had with the Suns front office, and basically forced Phoenix’s hand to deal him before the deadline passed. Pat Riley savvily stole Dragic for essentially nothing: some fringe NBA players and future first round picks that Riley himself will probably never be in office to select. Miami’s league-worst stable of point guards was their one true weakness now that Hassan Whiteside has emerged as the reincarnation of Alonzo Mourning.

Acquiring Dragic, who was second team All-NBA last season, was such a huge acquisition for Miami that for a short 24 hours they perhaps were a dark horse title contender before Chris Bosh’s scary blood clot issue was discovered. But Miami will likely be able to resign Goran during the offseason and could potentially compete in 2016. More importantly, Bosh will be okay. So the Suns acquire more future picks and rid themselves of an unhappy Dragic. They also receive Danny Granger and John Salmons, who both could be waived or just wither away on the bench for the rest of the season. New Orleans get a warm-blooded backup PG in Norris Cole, which is something they need if they are to beat out OKC for the eight spot, though it is highly unlikely. Jrue Holiday’s injury is taking a turn for the worse, and you really can’t have Tyreke Evans playing 40 minutes a night at the point.

In three-team deal, Bucks send Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Suns in exchange for Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee; Additionally, Phoenix sends their protected 2015 first-round pick from the Lakers to 76ers, and Philadelphia sends Michael Carter-Willams to Milwaukee

Why did it happen?

This was clearly the most shocking trade of the whole deadline. The Bucks imploding their frontcourt and trading their leading scorer during a playoff run is not a strategy many teams subscribe to. The Bucks must have felt that impending restricted free agent Brandon Knight was worth more to the open market this summer than he was to their organization. Milwaukee is not interested in paying a dollar figure potentially between $12-15 million that Knight will command this summer. So instead they swap in Michael Carter-Williams who is at least under team control for two more years.

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The problem is they’re swapping Knight for possibly the worst shooter in the entire league. They do gain a 6’6″ point guard and now have a stable of players who are extremely long and can defend multiple positions. Jason Kidd likely sees a lot of himself in MCW and must feel that he can work with him to fix his woeful jump shot.

The Bucks definitely improve on defense, but will now really struggle to score the ball in the halfcourt and don’t really have someone to go to in crunch time. That will really hinder them this season, but going forward with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak, they will surely be an interesting team to watch. They also acquire Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to add more bodies to an already deep bench.

The Suns get a pretty good replacement for Goran Dragic in Brandon Knight. Dragic is much better than Knight, but Knight may fit better into the Suns guard dominated offense. Knight is much more a combo guard than Dragic was and can be a prolific scorer. The duo of Bledsoe and Knight seems like a more natural fit than the Bledsoe and Dragic duo, because Knight can easily transition into the 2 spot. They painted themselves in a corner when they alienated Dragic and were forced to deal him and try and get some value before he became a free agent this summer. Phoenix really screwed this up, but Brandon Knight could pay dividends for the Suns eventually.

What won’t pay dividends is the idiotic move to trade the Lakers top five protected pick to Philadelphia. It’s just insane to let that pick go. They must have proposed multiple deals not involving the Lakers pick before they eventually caved to Milwaukee and Philadelphia’s demands. Losing the pick is bad, but losing Dragic and getting nothing return is worse. So they downgraded from Dragic to Knight and let go of an asset that had the potential to land them a future star this summer. Wow. That’s some Flip Saunders-like ineptitude.

So here’s what the Sixers and Sam Hinkie were thinking when they dealt away the “current” face of the franchise. The Sixers are not in the business of trying to become average; they’re trying to reach greatness. To the Sixers, MCW was just an average prospect who may have hit his ceiling. They did not view him as a future cog going forward; he plays the deepest position in the entire league and is 100% replaceable in their eyes.

Another reason for ditching MCW is that his numbers are inflated because of the run ‘n’ gun style the Sixers play, they have more offensive possessions than most teams. He also constantly has the ball in his hands and only shoots 38% from the field, and 26% from three (I just threw up in my mouth reading those numbers). His numbers are just awful by any standards for a starting guard in this league.

The Sixers want to develop a team around stars and MCW is never going to be one. By acquiring the Lakers’ protected pick, they are just giving themselves another opportunity to hit the lottery and draft a potential building block. They don’t really feel like they are taking a huge step back by shedding MCW either. By draft, trade, or free agency, the Sixers are constantly seeking the right opportunity to nab a superstar. Hinkie himself is one of the guys who orchestrated the James Harden trade. That is a type of scenario that they will be looking for moving forward, besides just drafting talent. Remaining flexible by staying way under the salary cap and gathering tons of valuable assets is what will make the Sixers a desired trade partner when a star from another team becomes available.

It’s not often those types of draft picks like the Lakers’ become available. It has the potential to be great, and the Sixers were selling high on MCW. Especially considering he’s a PG who can’t shoot and whose only viable trait is his height. All of this trying to acquire and develop around stars is easier said than done, I realize. But what the Sixers want to do is build something that will last not just a few years, but possibly for a decade or longer. The Sixers management is dedicated to building something special and you can begin to see through the mist if you squint really hard. The Hinkie strategy may seem outrageous to many and logical to few, but on Thursday they made the easy decision.