Bullish over thunderous affair

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jerami Grant (far left) getting into a tussle with Robin Lopez of the Chicago Bulls during the National Basketball Association game at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night. The Thunder won 121-96 and climbed to third
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jerami Grant (left) getting into a tussle with Robin Lopez of the Chicago Bulls during the National Basketball Association game at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night. The Thunder won 121-96 and climbed to third in the Western Conference, while the Bulls dropped to second from bottom in the East.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chicago coach insists his team 'fought for each other' in scuffle with the Oklahoma City players

OKLAHOMA CITY • The Chicago Bulls showed more fight at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday night than they have done all season in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Except the fight had nothing to do with attacking the basket and everything to do with sparking a melee with the home team, as frustrations boiled over at the prospect of another blowout loss.

Jim Boylen's players were already trailing by over 20 points when the skirmish, which occurred late in the third quarter, broke out as Chicago's Cameron Payne was being called for a foul on Terrance Ferguson.

Russell Westbrook and Kris Dunn subsequently traded pushes, leading to an altercation between the teams that brought Bulls coach Boylen over in front of the Oklahoma City Thunder bench.

Robin Lopez then had to be restrained in the front row between the bench and the scorer's table after he got tangled up with Jerami Grant.

After a review, Westbrook and Grant were assessed technicals for the Thunder, while the Chicago pair of Lopez and Dunn were also given technical fouls.

The Bulls, who lost Lopez to an ejection less than three minutes later after picking up another technical foul, were eventually gored 121-96 by the Thunder.

The visitors, who were led by 16 points apiece by Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis, dropped to second-last (7-24) in the Eastern Conference and have yet to win back-to-back games this term.

FIGHTING SPIRIT

We talk about being a pack of wolves, man. I thought we had some of that. It bonded them a little bit.

JIM BOYLEN, Chicago Bulls coach, refusing to condemn his team's heated reaction during the third quarter of the game.

The hosts, who were paced by 24 from Paul George, improved to 19-10, climbing to third in the Western Conference.

But, after the match, Boylen refused to condemn his team's heated reaction, claiming he "liked the look in our guys' eyes when that (incident) happened".

He told ESPN: "That's all we've been talking about... fighting for each other, and we talk about being a pack of wolves, man.

"I thought we had some of that. It bonded them a little bit. That's what we've been talking about.

"Those things are going to come up again, it happens in the league. We'll be ready for it next time to handle it even better."

The Thunder, to their credit, did not let the bust-up get to them and "kept rolling", despite George admitting "things got a little chippy".

Their tough defence forced 23 turnovers on a night when it was reported the franchise had picked up coach Billy Donovan's option for the 2019-20 season.

He later praised his team for handling themselves in the face of the bust-up, saying: "I thought our guys were trying to restrain themselves, but also protect one another."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2018, with the headline 'Bullish over thunderous affair'. Print Edition | Subscribe