Bulls start road trip with loss to Thunder
Alonzo Adams - USA Today Sports

Bulls start road trip with loss to Thunder

by - Senior Writer -

OKLAHOMA CITY - There may not be a team worse than the Chicago Bulls (5-11) when it comes to starting and finishing a game as they have been flat out awful this season. Opening what could be a make-or-break stretch for the Bulls in terms of blowing this team up, the Bulls kicked off a four-game road trip at Chesapeake Bank Arena to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4).

Already with one win against Chicago, which came during the season opener, the Thunder had a chance to sweep the season series against the Bulls as their impressive start to the season continues. When you look at this Thunder roster now and think about what it could look like with seven first-round picks in the next three drafts, this team will be scary as they already have the young pieces to build around. Those young pieces continued to lead the way in this one as the Thunder pulled away from Chicago and secured the 116-102 victory.

As has been the case all season, the Bulls come out of the gates about as flat as you can, and with Zach Lavine out of the lineup due to a sore left foot, things were going to get tougher. Apart from Coby White, who finished with 23 points on seven triples, no one on the Bulls could make a shot over the first 12 minutes and found themselves in another massive 26-14 hole.

Playing from behind is one thing, but when you put yourself in double-digit holes consistently in the first quarter, you are asking for trouble, and that is something the Bulls have done far too often this season. Despite trailing by a dozen early, the Bulls continued to chip away, and although it didn't look like they were gaining, they took what was an 11-point halftime lead by the Thunder and flipped it around as the Bulls rallied to take the lead in the third.

Their lead didn't last long as the Thunder closed out the third strong to grab a seven-point lead heading into the fourth, but once again, the Bulls were showing some toughness and using another run to get back into it. This time, it was Mr. Fourth Quarter Demar DeRozan getting going as he finished with a team-high 24 points in the win. Led by DeRozan, the Bulls pulled within 98-95 with just over four minutes to go, and suddenly, we had a game on our hands.

That was until the Bulls offense went quiet at the worst time as the Thunder surged past the Bulls over the final four minutes and closed out the game on an 18-7 run to pick up the 116-102 victory. Once again, White and DeRozan were putting up terrific games, but so did Nikola Vucevic, adding 16 points and 12 rebounds. While his offensive game was solid yet again, Vucevic continues to prove he is a liability on the floor on defense as he is too slow to compete with quicker and more athletic bigs.

While those three carried the load for Chicago, Alex Caruso finished with his fifth consecutive double-figure game with 12 points. The current stretch that he is on is the longest of his career, and you can see why he is generating all of the trade buzz he is getting. Filling in for Lavine was Patrick Williams, and once again, he left a lot to be desired for finishing the game with 10 points. In his defense, Lavine hasn't been playing much better, so if that is the production he will give you, the Bulls will take it. Ayo Dusunmu added 11 points off the bench to round out the double-figure scorers for Chicago.

16 games into the season, and it is the Thunder who have not only impressed but may be the most surprising team in the entire league. Led by budding superstar Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder have an elite scorer ready to lead his team to no heights in the near future. SGA got cooking early and often in this one sinking 11-13 shots and 17-18 free throws to drop 40 points on the Bulls defense which accounted for 40% of their entire offense.

Another young star to keep an eye on is Chet Holmgren, who is starting to come into his own as a player. Selected No.2 overall in 2022, Holmgren missed all of last season with a foot injury, but is showing he is worth the pick this season. He added 18 points and 13 rebounds to SGA's massive game, and those two continue to give teams a problem every game. Josh Giddey added 10 points in what was a down night for him, but he didn't need to be at his best as the Thunder got a terrific performance from Isaiah Joe off the bench.

Already with one of the deepest and most successful benches this season, Joe erupted for 20 points while also connecting on five of seven triples. If the Thunder can expect that from him or anyone else from here on out, it will make them scarier as the season progresses. Kenrich Williams also had a strong game for the Thunder second unit as he came away with 13 points in the win. Chicago will return on the floor Friday when they travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors.


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