Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/9/12
CHICAGO -- While the Chicago Bulls try to survive without Derrick Rose, the Oklahoma City Thunder is getting used to a new lineup. On Thursday at the United Center, an old standby got the job done. Kevin Durant scored 24 points, including six in the final minute, as the Thunder made a late surge to beat Chicago 97-91 at the United Center. The Bulls rose to the occasion most of the night without 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. But the Thunder had too much star power down the stretch. Russell Westbrook put the Thunder ahead for good at 89-87 on a driving layup 2:02 remaining. After the teams exchanged misses, Durant kept the Bulls at bay with a baseline pull-up jumper and a foul-line fadeaway in the final minute. Both baskets gave Oklahoma City a four-point lead. "I thought Kevin and Russell did a great job executing tonight," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "Russell struggled offensively, but still had a great game with those 12 assists." Thunder center Serge Ibaka scored 15 of his 21 points in the first half. Westbrook didn't shoot well (7-for-22) but contributed 16 points. Forward Luol Deng led Chicago with 27 points while Hamilton scored 20 and Joakim Noah grabbed 13 rebounds. But Deng could only watch as Durant scored the two clinching baskets in the final minute. The fadeaway hit the net with 19.5 seconds on the clock. "I thought I was on him," Deng said. "He's a great player. It's a tough shot. I was on him. Fadeaway, one leg, 6-9 -- great player, really tough shot." When Westbrook and Durant returned to the court with 6:58 left in the fourth quarter, Chicago's limited lineup was put to a tougher test. The Thunder duo quickly turned a pick-and-roll into a Durant layup and the Thunder led 81-78. "Kevin did a great job of setting screens tonight," Brooks said. "That's what we need him to do more. I like Kevin to be a playmaker. That is what separates good players from great ones." The lead grew to five points 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, giving Chicago a 72-66 edge heading into the fourth. "They are hard to guard," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "They made some tough plays and they closed it out. The game was there. The game was there to be had." 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 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 sixpoints of the first half, taking a 48-47 halftime lead on Durant's driving layup.Ibaka was unusually offensive in the first half, hitting 6-of-11 shots for 15 points before intermission. NOTES: Oklahoma City guard Russell 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 came into this game ranked last in the league in 3-point shooting at 26.2 percent. ... Oklahoma City leads the NBA in blocked shots at 8.3 per game and had 5 in the first half.
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