OKLAHOMA CITY • This week was a tough one for first-year Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg.
Last Saturday, guard Jimmy Butler publicly questioned his coaching tactics. It set off a media firestorm and turned into a situation that could have unravelled Chicago's National Basketball Association season. Instead, the Bulls used the adversity during a 105-96 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
"It's a great win," Hoiberg said.
"The biggest thing we were looking for was to play hard, play with effort, play together.
"We did all those things. Obviously, it was a tough week. We needed something like this to show our guys how good we can be."
Butler, who said Hoiberg needed to coach the team harder following last Saturday's double-digit loss in New York, scored 23 points to lead the Bulls. He shot nine of 20 from the field to go along with six rebounds and four assists.
Centre Pau Gasol added 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Bulls improved to 16-11 and snapped a three-game losing streak.
Thunder forward Kevin Durant led all scorers with 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting. He also collected nine rebounds and seven assists.
Guard Russell Westbrook tallied 26 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Centre Enes Kanter was the only other Thunder player to hit double figures with 14 points as Oklahoma City dropped to 20-10.
"We didn't have any energy to start the game or to start the third quarter," Durant said.
The Bulls hit the Thunder with a 11-0 run after the tip-off and Oklahoma City never came close to recovering until the fourth quarter.
Trailing by 18 going into that period, the Thunder put their best offensive unit on the floor. The line-up of Durant, Westbrook, forward Serge Ibaka, Kanter and guard Anthony Morrow quickly closed the gap to 12 with 6min 59sec left.
And when Westbrook knocked down a 14-foot jumper with 3:42 remaining, Oklahoma City were down 93-99 .
Over a minute later, however, Butler buried a pair of free throws.
Ibaka was called for an offensive foul and Gasol made them pay with a lay-up to give Chicago a 10-point lead and put the game away.
"We seen how the game was going," Chicago guard Derrick Rose said. "That's all we need, everybody on the same page."