The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook soars over the Bulls’ Omer Asik for a dunk Sunday. | Layne Murdoch~Getty Images
Updated: May 3, 2012 8:12AM
OKLAHOMA CITY — It was supposed to be a potential NBA
Finals preview, but it was more of a mismatch.
If the Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder end up meeting in the NBA Finals, the Thunder shouldn’t suffer from a lack of confidence — not after leading by 30 points Sunday before the visitors closed the gap during garbage time.
With Derrick Rose (sore groin) sitting out his 10th consecutive game, the Bulls didn’t have the firepower to compete with Kevin
Durant and Russell Westbrook, who might be the most lethal one-two punch in the league. More troubling was how the Bulls were outhustled and outworked in a 92-78 loss at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Even without Rose, it’s rare for the Bulls to perform so miserably across the board.
‘‘It’s an embarrassing game,’’ guard Kyle Korver said. ‘‘You got your butt kicked on ABC on Sunday.’’
The Bulls couldn’t make a shot and the Thunder couldn’t miss. That’s the way it seemed in the first half, at least. The Thunder led by 10 at the break and blew the game open with a 23-7 run to start the third quarter. The second half became a continual celebration for the Thunder and their giddy fans before both coaches pulled their starters.
A game between the best team in the Eastern Conference and the best in the Western Conference was no contest at all.
‘‘We had problems to start the game, a problem at the end of the first quarter, a problem at the end of the second quarter, a problem to start the third quarter,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘Against a quality team, you can’t overcome that.’’
With Durant, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins on the floor, the Thunder is one of the longest teams in the league, and it affected the Bulls offensively. The Thunder blocked nine shots, held the Bulls to 33 percent shooting and scored 10 more points in the paint.
‘‘They have a couple of really good players who played great,’’ Korver said. ‘‘We didn’t really
have an answer for them. It created a lot of tough situations for us, and we didn’t fight through it like we normally do.’’
As dependable as C.J. Watson and John Lucas III have been, the Bulls needed Rose to take this game over and give them a chance. Watson picked up his third foul late in the first half, which led to
extended minutes for Lucas, who has provided instant offense and some much-needed depth in the backcourt this season.
Lucas’ first six shots were long and flat, though, and he had two others blocked as he and Watson combined to make 4 of 17 shots through three quarters.
Lucas got hot late and finished with a team-high 19 points. Korver started for Ronnie Brewer and added 14 points, and Taj Gibson had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
‘‘They really kicked our ass in every aspect of the game,’’ center Joakim Noah said. ‘‘That hasn’t happened to us in a long time.’’
Westbrook scored 27 points and Durant 26 for the Thunder. Neither played in the fourth quarter.
‘‘We’ve done this to a couple of other teams that are in the thick of things, too,’’ Korver said. ‘‘Obviously, there is a lot we can learn from it, but we can’t let it dictate how we play the rest of the season.’’