OKLAHOMA CITY — The NBA is a no-mercy league. With players going down because of injuries all the time, teams don’t feel sorry for one another.
The Chicago Bulls witnessed that dynamic again Thursday when they faced the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder. Behind a 32-point effort from Kevin Durant, the Thunder earned a 107-95 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“We are right there,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team was without guards Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich, and forward Luol Deng. “The challenge for us is not to accept what’s going on, but to keep fighting.”
The win enabled the Thunder to tie the 1976-77 Seattle SuperSonics for the franchise record of 13 consecutive home victories to start the season. At 21-4, they also have the best record in the NBA.
Playing short-handed, the Bulls (9-16) did their best to break the Thunder’s streak. Each time it looked as if Oklahoma City would pull away, Chicago slowly climbed back into striking distance.
The Bulls whittled a 15-point deficit down to eight with 9:30 left in the fourth quarter. However, the Bulls had no answer for Durant down the stretch.
Time after time, the Bulls left the NBA’s leading scorer open on the perimeter, and he made them pay with his 13th 30-point game of the season.
“You have heard it all,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of Durant. “What he does is play a good, solid basketball game. He plays the right way. He makes shots all over the floor. He doesn’t have to have a certain part of the floor or a certain play. He’s one of the best players in the world.”
Durant also racked up nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. Russell Westbrook added 20 points and 10 rebounds. Reggie Jackson came the bench to score 18 points.
Joakim Noah paced the Bulls with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Taj Gibson scored 16 points, and D.J. Augustin collected 15 points and five assists.
Chicago had six players score in double figures, but it wasn’t enough.
“We’ve been scoring the ball real well,” Gibson said. “It’s just that our defense hasn’t been there to help us out.”