So much for momentum.
After picking up wins over the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks — the top two teams in the Eastern Conference — earlier in the week, the Chicago Bulls fell to the Thunder 123-119 in overtime on Friday night in Oklahoma City.
The loss dropped the Bulls to 8-11 and 12th place in the East with four games left on their six-game trip.
Here are seven takeaways from the game.
1. The Bulls forced overtime but narrowly failed.
After overcoming an eight-point second-half deficit, the Bulls pushed the Thunder into overtime and had a chance to tie or advance late with the ball in the hands of DeMar DeRozan.
With the Bulls trailing two with nine seconds remaining, DeRozan — who scored all nine points for the Bulls in overtime — fielded a midrange jumper. But DeRozan missed the potential tying shot, ending the Bulls’ two-game winning streak.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander nearly delivered a haymaker to give the Thunder a three-point lead with 58.8 seconds left, but Lu Dort drew a call from the goaltender for hanging on the edge, nullifying the basket.
The teams traded shots throughout the final minutes of overtime. The Thunder took the lead to stay with 27.1 seconds left when Gilgeous-Alexander fouled DeRozan with a trick fake shot from behind the arc, sinking all three free throws that followed.
After DeRozan failed, Gilgeous-Alexander converted two more free throws with 4.9 seconds left to seal the Thunder victory. He finished with 30 points.
2. The Bulls scored on their first 8 possessions for an explosive start.
The Bulls took a 19-7 lead after scoring on their first eight offensive possessions, splitting the score among the five starters. Nikola Vučević scored the opening lay-up; Patrick Williams sank a 3-pointer and scored on a coast-to-coast run; DeRozan warmed up his sweater for a pair of early fielders; and Ayo Dosunmu and Zach LaVine cut the edge in early possessions.
The streak was finally snapped when DeRozan missed a 3-pointer at 7:49, but the effective shooting continued as the starters went 11 for 18 in the first quarter.
3. The Bulls bench struggled early, but the starters balanced it out.
The Bulls’ bench has bailed out starters on several occasions this season, rectifying the team’s pattern of slow starts by helping the Bulls return to action at halftime. But the roles were reversed in Oklahoma City.
The starters gave the game to the second unit with a 21-14 lead at 6:18 of the first quarter, when Alex Caruso and Coby White came in for LaVine and Dosunmu. The bench ended their shift midway through the second quarter with the Bulls trailing 41-36 after allowing a 27-15 run. The reserves contributed a combined 17 points in the first half, seven of which came from Caruso.
The Bulls starters used a 10-point run to tie the game at 59 before heading into the locker room. But the crisis left the Bulls vulnerable heading into the second half.
4. DeRozan and LaVine had a rough shooting night but scored the bulk of the Bulls’ points.
Despite a combined 57 points, DeRozan and LaVine suffered uncharacteristically poor shooting nights. DeRozan (30 points) went 12-for-27 and missed his lone 3-point attempt while LaVine (27) was 9-for-23, including 4-for-11 on 3s.
The pair started off effectively but cooled off as the match progressed. DeRozan went 2 for 8 in the third quarter as the Bulls’ offense stalled to shoot 29% in the quarter. LaVine was 0 for 3 from 3-point range in overtime.
The Bulls know they can’t rely on their All-Star duo too much. Friday’s loss provided another reminder that the offense can’t depend on LaVine and DeRozan alone.
5. Williams seems to be gaining confidence.
Williams continued to make notable progress after a slow start to the season.
He scored 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting, made all three of his 3-pointers and added six rebounds. He continued to struggle to maintain attacking intensity for the entirety of the game, going 1 for 4 in the second half.
But Williams’ defense stood out the most. He recorded a pair of blocks and locked in on key Thunder players, making the most of his matchups on an otherwise poor defensive night for the Bulls.
Williams still hasn’t lived up to expectations of being the No. 4 selection in the 2020 draft, but his progression as a defender and offensive enabler will be key.
6. Goran Dragić struggled on his return.
Dragić, who left Monday’s game against the Celtics with a neck injury and sat out Wednesday against the Bucks, scored two points in 11 minutes off the bench against the Thunder. Coach Billy Donovan described Dragić’s injury as a sting, and it was clear the discomfort was affecting the veteran keeper’s shot.
Dragić didn’t attempt a 3-pointer until midway through the fourth quarter and went 1 for 5 from the field. His balance on the ball is still a lift for the Bulls, but the team will miss his shooting accuracy until he comes back to full strength.
7. The road for the Bulls only gets tougher from here.
On Friday, the Bulls missed a great opportunity to take advantage of the only team under .500 on the six-game trip, continuing an odd pattern of losing to struggling opponents while beating some of the league’s best. The Thunder improved to 8-11 with the win.
The Bulls travel to Salt Lake City for a Monday night game against the Utah Jazz (12-9). They travel to Phoenix on Wednesday to face the Suns, who at 12-6 are the best team in the West, before traveling to San Francisco on Friday to face the Golden State Warriors (10-10).
The Bulls wrap up the trip Dec. 4 against the Sacramento Kings (10-8), then return home for a game against the Washington Wizards on Dec. 7.
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