Dec 25, 2015 6:35 PM
Butler scores 23 points, Bulls beat Thunder 105-96
The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Chicago Bulls were angry and on edge after three straight losses. They channeled those emotions into one of their best wins of the season.
Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, and Pau Gasol had 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulls' 105-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
In a game that featured several skirmishes, the Bulls outrebounded the NBA's No. 2 rebounding team 53-48.
"We've just got to go out there and attack," Chicago forward Taj Gibson, who got a double technical with Oklahoma City's Serge Ibaka, said. "It's no time to be friends with anybody right now. We've got enough friends in here. We're with each other 24-7. We can't go out there and look to be nice to everybody."
Derrick Rose added 19 points, and Gibson had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Chicago held the Thunder to 38.5-percent shooting, Oklahoma City's third-worst showing of the season.
Kevin Durant had 29 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for Oklahoma City, and Russell Westbrook added 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. The Thunder had won three straight and nine of 10.
"I think we did a really good job of making sure we closed out to 3-point shooters," Rose said. "We trusted the game plan. We know K.D. is a great 3-point shooter, (Anthony) Morrow, and Westbrook when his feet are set, and you just can't let them get hot. Everybody else on the team, we forced them to make shots and make plays."
Durant said he didn't like the way the Thunder played at times when they got behind.
"If you try to get it all back in one play, try to get a steal, try to come down and shoot a pull-up 3 just doing stupid stuff that we did all night, it will be tough to win," Durant said.
Chicago led 51-37 with 4:58 left in the first half, but the Thunder cut it to 54-52 at halftime. Durant scored 19 points in the half, and Westbrook had 12 points and five assists.
Gasol and Butler each scored 11 points in the first half for the Bulls.
Chicago scored the first eight points of the second half to go up 62-52 and force the Thunder to call a timeout. The Bulls led 86-68 at the end of the third quarter.
The Bulls led by 18 at the end of the third quarter. Oklahoma City changed things up and played Morrow and Enes Kanter with Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka for most of the fourth quarter. A pair of 3-pointers by Morrow cut Chicago's lead to 97-89 with just under 5 minutes to play, but the Bulls hung on.
"We withstood their run, which I think everyone knew they were going to go on in the fourth quarter, and they (the Bulls) made big plays down the stretch," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said.
The lineup that Oklahoma City started the fourth quarter with Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, Kanter and Morrow outscored the Bulls 28-19. Morrow and Kanter don't start, in part, because of defensive shortcomings, but that group held the Bulls to 6-for-20 shooting.
Kanter wore Christmas socks with green stripes and red snowflakes. He is a Muslim, but he said he respects different cultures. "Well, I live in the U.S. now, and I'm just really cool with all of the holidays Christmas, Thanksgiving," he said. "It's pretty cool."
Gibson, on defending Westbrook: "Russ is a hard opponent to go against, especially with the way he attacks," he said. "We just all wanted bodies in front of him. Put bodies in front of him and make sure somebody contested him at the rim, and compete."
Bulls: Ran out to an 11-0 lead. ... C Joakim Noah sat out with a left shoulder sprain. ... Beat the Thunder 104-98 at United Center on Nov. 5. ... Butler hit a 35-foot 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter. ... Rose fouled out.
Thunder: Missed their first five shots. ... C Steven Adams picked up two fouls in the first 2 minutes. Kanter entered the game and had six points and seven rebounds in the first quarter. He finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds. ... Had just one assist in the first quarter. ... ... Morrow made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
Bulls: At Dallas on Saturday night.
Thunder: Host Denver on Sunday night.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CliffBruntAP