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Durant, Thunder ease past short-handed Bulls

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The NBA is a no-mercy league. With players going down due to injuries all the time, no team feels sorry for another.

The Chicago Bulls witnessed that dynamic again Thursday when they faced the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder. Behind a 32-point effort from forward 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 missing 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 wins 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. Guard Russell Westbrook added 20 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Reggie Jackson came the bench to score 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting.

Center Joakim Noah paced the Bulls with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Taj Gibson scored 16 points, and guard 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."

With three of his fellow starters out, Noah took it upon himself to ignite the Bulls' offense. He scored 11 of the team's first 13 points to give Chicago a quick lead.

The Thunder outscored the Bulls 23-9 the rest of the period despite Durant picking up his second technical foul of the season and going to the bench early. Oklahoma City led 35-24 heading into the second quarter.

"When you look at their team, the depth, the way they play, they are so sound on both sides of the ball," Thibodeau said of the Thunder. "They are virtually top five on offense, top five on defense. ... They play so unselfishly on both ends. They play for each other. That's why they are good."

Bulls guard Jimmy Butler suffered a sprained ankle in the second quarter and didn't return. Even so, Chicago trailed just 55-52 at halftime.

"They have some prideful players," Brooks said. "They play hard. They haven't won as many games as they would like. It's hard to win in this league when you have injuries. They've had a lot of them to a lot of very good players. What I like about the team is they will continue to battle and find ways."

NOTES: Bulls G Kirk Hinrich missed his fourth consecutive game with a back injury, and Chicago F Luol Deng sat out due to Achilles soreness. ... Despite ranking fourth in the NBA in scoring, the Thunder are 26th in 3-point shooting, which has coach Scott Brooks concerned. "We are focused on improving, and that's an area we'd like to get better," Brooks said. "We believe in 3-point shots. We feel that's a big part of the game. I'd like us to take more and make more." ... Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant and several teammates attended the Jay-Z "Magna Carter World Tour" concert Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Durant, who represented by Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports, got a shout-out from his agent during the show. ... After the game, Chicago F Joakim Noah walked into the Oklahoma City locker room with Thunder G Thabo Sefolosha, a former Bull. Thunder C Kendrick Perkins was not happy about the visit, and he exchanged words with Noah.
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