This was not the battle any of us were hoping for. Jimmy Butler attempted to play the full game with his illness, but he could not finish. He only had one point. However, the other guy, Russell Westbrook, had 21 points, 14 assists, and nine rebounds. Prior to the game, I named three keys to the game for how the Bulls can win. My first key was stopping Russ. There was no way the Bulls could turn off a machine like Westbrook.
My second key was for the Doug McDermott to continue his production coming off the bench. He, too, had an off game by only scoring seven points in 25 minutes. His defense was not superb, either. He will most likely see a lot of playing time again tomorrow in Washington because Butler and Dwyane Wade, who had 20 points, will both be sitting. His positive production must increase.
My third key was for the Bulls to attack the boards and stop Steven Adams. Not only couldn’t the Bulls big men stop Adams, but they also could not stop his backup, Enes Kanter, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes. Adams had 22 points. Taj Gibson, Robin Lopez, and Cristiano Felicio scored 22 points combined.
The Bulls were off and the Thunder were on. If they want to consistently win, they need to go into every game with the mindset of not relying on Jimmy Butler to carry them. They need to remember that basketball is a team sport. Tomorrow night, they must come together as a team in the absence of their two stars. They failed tonight’s test in an extremely miserable fashion. They had zero control over the course of the entire game.
Tomorrow night, the big men need to get tough on the boards. Michael Carter-Williams and Rajon Rondo, who may also get some minutes after sitting four games, need to stop another star point guard in John Wall. Obviously, the bench needs to play and they need to play well. Even after a nice three game win streak, including two wins against the top two teams of the East, the Bulls still play without any kind of identity. This was highlighted in tonight’s beating.