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Cold-shooting Bulls pounded by Thunder

(MCT) — OKLAHOMA CITY — Add Russell Westbrook to those who speculate Derrick Rose will return on his surgically-repaired left knee sometime this season.

“I see that he’s getting better,” the Thunder’s All-Star point guard said. “He’s almost close to coming back.”

Then again, Westbrook said he hasn’t talked much lately with his summer workout partner. So as with most things regarding Rose, who knows?

This is for sure: The Bulls offense, dead on arrival Sunday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena, could use him badly. Posting season lows for shooting percentage, field goals and assists, the Bulls meekly fell 102-72 to the Thunder.

The Bulls also lost Taj Gibson to a sprained left knee in the fourth quarter. He will undergo further testing on Monday in Chicago.

“The way we competed was embarrassing,” Joakim Noah said.

That’s three times in the last five games that the Bulls have failed to crack 73 points. The Bulls needed a late rush to avoid the franchise record of 23.4 percent shooting, set during a franchise-low, 49-point debacle against the Heat on April 10, 1999.

As it was, they shot 29.1 percent with 14 assists and 25 field goals. In fact, the Bulls’ offensive highlight was Rose working himself into a lather during his pregame workout, including several dunks.

“We have to be mentally tougher,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When you face a little adversity and you’re short-handed, you have to dig down and get the job done. Our level of intensity has to be much higher. And we have to get that right quickly.”

Not surprisingly, Thibodeau and players rejected the notion that without Rose and Kirk Hinrich, who sat for the 10th time in 11 games, they are wearing down mentally from the burden of playing short-handed.

“Offensive execution, everyone can do that,” Noah said.

The Bulls actually defended Kevin Durant well. The league’s leading scorer managed 19 points on just 6-for-19 shooting but grabbed 16 rebounds.

Westbrook had 23 points and Serge Ibaka’s double-double featured 17 points and 10 rebounds. Plus, the Thunder aren’t just Durant and Westbrook.

“They have three guys who are under the radar and don’t get the credit they deserve,” Thibodeau said. “When you look at (Thabo) Sefolosha, (Kendrick) Perkins and (Nick) Collison, they bring a lot of toughness and intangibles to a team. They make a team function well.”

Without Rose, the Bulls have been forced to rely on contributions from myriad players as well. Those contributions were as absent as Rose on Sunday.

Gibson missed his first eight shots. Carlos Boozer managed two points. Nate Robinson missed 12 of 14 shots.

“We took the wrong shots,” Thibodeau said. “We were quick shooting. We weren’t moving the ball side to side. We have to execute.”

The Bulls, who finished a stretch of 10 of 12 road games, continue to play with low energy offensively.

“It’s very humbling to lose like that,” Noah said. “We had no intensity. We took steps backwards. We’ve played a lot better this year. There’s no excuse. We just have to bounce back ASAP.”

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