On the final night of the Elite Opponent Homestand, the Bulls again discovered there is still a pretty large gap between their team and the best of the Western Conference -- mainly two superstars.
The Bulls felt the Oklahoma City Thunder on both offense and defense Monday. Kevin Durant dropped in 35 points, and the Bulls went scoreless for 6½ minutes of the fourth quarter on the way to a 97-85 loss at the United Center.
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The final tally on this challenging stretch of home games was 3-3. The Bulls beat Miami, Houston and Sacramento, while losing to Memphis, San Antonio and OKC.
"This game, I thought we did a lot of good things," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We didn't cover the (3-point) line as well as we would have liked to. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we would have liked to. That's why it's so important to have shooting."
The Bulls trailed by 9 points early in the fourth quarter, then put together a quick 8-0 run, mostly while Durant and point guard Russell Westbrook were on the bench.
When the Thunder's stars returned, the Bulls couldn't keep pace. They gave up 13 straight points and missed 11 straight shots until a Joakim Noah free throw finally ended the scoring drought.
The Thunder finished the game hitting 13 of 25 shots from 3-point range. Durant, Westbrook and Caron Butler knocked down 3 each. The Bulls are 0-11 this season when their opponent shoots better than 50 percent from behind the arc.
This seemed to be a case where the Bulls spent so much energy trying to make things tough on the Thunder's shooters they had nothing left on offense. The Bulls got plenty of good looks in this game but shot just 34.5 percent and made 5 of 22 attempts from long range.
Many of those misses rattled around the rim, just a hair off target.
"We were off tonight, and that happens, but we've got to keep playing defense and keep fighting," Bulls guard D.J. Augustin said. "I think we tried to do that, but we just didn't get any stops."
Taj Gibson led the Bulls with 16 points and shot the best, hitting 6 of 14 attempts. Augustin went 3-for-11 from the field and Kirk Hinrich 3-for-12.
"You've got to give credit where credit is due," said Noah, who finished with 12 rebounds, 9 points and 9 assists. "They did a nice job hitting shots tonight. They played with an edge. We missed shots, and we definitely could have played better, though."
The Bulls (37-30) won't argue against anyone who votes Durant for MVP. In the middle of the fourth-quarter run, the Bulls tried to trap Durant off a screen, but he just rose up and drained a long 3-pointer.
"He's 7-feet tall and all arms and he's skilled," said Augustin, who played with Durant in college at Texas. "He plays like a guard. I don't really know how you can stop him unless you double-team him. But they have so many weapons, you have to respect everybody."
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