Both the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder nearly squandered double-digit leads in their last games - until their respective superstars took over. Each team would welcome a more complete effort Monday night in Chicago.
Derrick Rose(notes) and Kevin Durant(notes) - two of the top three scorers in the NBA - will meet for the final time this season when the Bulls look to salvage a split of their two-game season series with the Thunder.
The Bulls lost a 14-point lead at home to Houston on Saturday, but Rose made a 3-pointer to force overtime, then scored five more points in the extra session to lead Chicago to a 119-116 victory. Rose finished with 30 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. His 25.7 scoring average trails only Durant (a league-best 27.8) and Kobe Bryant(notes), and he’s scored 30 or more seven times in 2010-11.
The normally even-tempered Rose showed an unusual amount of emotion after helping the Bulls (10-8) avoid a fourth loss in five games.
“I think that was the first time I’ve celebrated this who year after I shot a shot,” Rose said of his buzzer beater to end regulation. “It felt good knowing that I’m capable of knocking down shots like that.”
Carlos Boozer(notes), playing his third game of the season after returning from a broken right hand, added 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He’s scored 20 or more points in seven of his last 10 games against the Oklahoma City franchise, and his 20.6 career average versus the Thunder is his second-highest against any opponent.
Rose scored 28 points in a season-opening 106-95 loss at Oklahoma City, which is also coming off a less-than-textbook victory.
Durant, who returned after missing two games with a knee injury, scored 28 points Sunday in a 114-109 home win over Golden State. However, the Thunder nearly blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead, allowing the Warriors to cut the margin deficit to three before Durant helped seal the victory with two late free throws.
“I think we started the fourth quarter off kind of bad - a couple turnovers and easy baskets for them - and that’s kind of contagious,” Durant said. “We’ve got to do a better job of if we’re up by a lot, not be too relaxed.”
Oklahoma City (14-7) thrived in the fourth quarter in the season opener against Chicago, outscoring the Bulls 24-13 in the final 12 minutes to account for the entire margin of victory. Durant had 30 points to lead all scorers, while Westbrook finished with 28 and 10 rebounds.
Rose and Durant have faced each other five times with Oklahoma City winning three, including the last two in Chicago.