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Thunder beat Bulls, Climb back into Playoff Position
By Mike Jasko

Russell Westbrook

Russell Westbrook's frenzied play sans-KD continued Sunday as the Bulls came to OKC to take on the Thunder. Westbrook had 36 points and 11 rebounds, but it was one of his six assists that all-but sealed the game for Oklahoma City; a pass to marksman Anthony Morrow who drained the 3-pointer, giving the Thunder a 7-point lead with 40 seconds remaining. Morrow had 11 points including three 3-pointers, as the Thunder continue to play without Kevin Durant.

The Bulls were dominated on the glass by OKC, with the Thunder winning the rebounding battle 52-33. Enes Kanter played a great game, with 18 points and 18 boards, while Steven Adams also had a double-double, with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Much of the talk surrounding the Thunder lately has been the eye-popping numbers put up by Russell Westbrook. Coming into Sunday's game, Westbrook had averaged 32.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 10.6 assists per game over the last 8 games, recording six triple-doubles in that span. Despite Westbrook's incredible numbers, the Thunder have gone just 4-4 in those 8 games, and are still fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot in the brutal Western Conference.

A low scoring first quarter had the Thunder leading 17-15 after one, with Westbrook's first and only basket coming in the term's final minute. 12 of Chicago's 15 first-quarter points were scored by Pau Gasol, with a 3-point play from Joakim Noah accounting for the Bulls only other points. Both teams picked up their offensive games in the second quarter; Dion Waiters and Russell Westbrook both scored 10 first half points, while Bulls' rookie Niko Mirotic scored 10 points in the second quarter, and the teams went into halftime tied at 47.

Both teams battled throughout the third quarter; Russell Westbrook scored 12 in the quarter, Enes Kanter added 8 in the term, and OKC took a five-point lead into the fourth. Chicago stormed back early in the fourth to erase the deficit, and Joakim Noah gave Chicago the lead with 9:27 left, before Anthony Morrow's 3-pointer took the lead back on the Thunder's next possession.

Chicago cut the lead to one with 1:41 left on a lay-up by Niko Mirotic; Russell Westbrook would get to the line on the next Thunder possession, making 1-of-2 free throws. After an Aaron Brooks Turnover, Westbrook stretched the lead back to four on a made lay-up. Chicago would turn the ball over again on their next possession, when Westbrook found Anthony Morrow for the clinching three, putting the game out of reach.

With the win and a double-overtime loss by the Pelicans versus Denver, Oklahoma City regains the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Mirotic led the Bulls in scoring with 27 points; Pau Gasol added 20 points and 8 boards, with Joakim Noah added 15 points and 7 assists. With the loss the Bulls fall to the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference standings, percentage points behind Toronto and a full three games behind the Cavaliers, who won Sunday at Orlando.  

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