Thunder 97, Bulls 91

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- Kevin Durant scored 24 points, including six in the final minute, as the Oklahoma City Thunder made a late surge to beat the Chicago Bulls 97-91 Thursday at the United Center.
The Bulls rose to the occasion most of the night without All-Star guard Derrick Rose, who is recovering from knee surgery. Veteran guards Kirk Hinrich and Richard Hamilton seemed inspired by the competitive challenge of facing the defending Western Conference champs.
However, the Thunder (3-2) had too much star power down the stretch. Russell Westbrook put the visitors ahead for good at 89-87 on a driving lay-in with 2:02 remaining.
After the teams exchanged misses, Durant kept the Bulls at bay with a baseline pull-up jumper and a foul-line fade-away in the final minute. Both baskets gave Oklahoma City a four-point lead.
Thunder center Serge Ibaka finished with 21 points and a team-high nine rebounds. Westbrook didn't shoot well (7-for-22), but he contributed 16 points and 12 assists.
Forward Luol Deng led Chicago with 27 points, while Hamilton had 20 points and eight rebounds. Joakim Noah grabbed 13 rebounds and scored nine points for the Bulls (3-2).
When Westbrook and Durant returned to the court with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter, Chicago's limited lineup was put to a stronger test. The Thunder duo quickly turned a pick-and-roll into a Durant lay-in, and Oklahoma City led 81-78.
The lead grew to five before Deng's three-point play gave the Bulls some life. Hamilton tied the score at 85-85 by hitting two free throws with 4:16 left.
Midway through the third quarter, the Bulls used an 11-0 run to build a 61-55 lead. Deng nailed a 3-pointer with 29.1 seconds left in the quarter, giving Chicago a 72-66 edge heading into the fourth.
The Bulls got off to a fast start, jumping to an early 12-4 lead, but the teams traded runs during the first half. After a Hinrich jumper put the Bulls ahead 22-15 with 3:06 left in the first quarter, the Thunder answered with an 18-4 run to take its own 7-point lead.
Chicago came back and built a 45-40 edge with 2:50 left in the second quarter. Oklahoma City then scored the final six points of the first half, taking a 48-47 halftime lead on Durant's driving lay-in.
Ibaka was unusually offensive in the first half, hitting 6-of-11 shots for 15 points before intermission.
NOTES: Westbrook had a summer tradition of working out with Derrick Rose in Southern California. Westbrook had to go it alone this year, because Rose is recovering from knee surgery. "I can't imagine what that feels like," Westbrook said before Thursday's game. "He's going through a tough year being injured. Definitely, he'll (come back) stronger." ... The Bulls entered the game ranked last in the league in 3-point shooting at 26.2 percent. They improved on that figure slightly, shooting 33.3 percent (5-for-15). ... Oklahoma City led the NBA in blocked shots at 8.3 per game entering play, and the Thunder blocked eight shots against Chicago.

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