Rose, Bulls scuttle ThunderMar 19, 2009 - 3:35 AM By Jeff Latzke AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Derrick Rose didn't know what he had to do, but his team needed him to do something. A perfect second half took care of what was ailing in the Chicago Bulls.
Rose scored 20 of his 25 points and didn't miss a shot in the second half and the Bulls snapped a seven-game road losing streak by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-96 on Wednesday night.
"I knew that my team needed me to make plays. I didn't know what type of plays, but it ended up being scoring plays," said Rose, who finished two points off his career best.
In a matchup between two of the NBA's top rookie point guards, Rose was unstoppable in the second half. The No. 1 pick in last year's draft hit all 10 of his shots, including the jumper that gave the Bulls the lead for good late in the third quarter.
"I was just feeling it tonight. I didn't want to lose, so I just started shooting the ball," Rose said.
Russell Westbrook, the fourth overall pick in the draft, had 15 points and pulled the Thunder within 99-96 by driving past Rose for a layup in the final minute before Oklahoma City's rally fell short.
John Salmons added 20 points and Ben Gordon scored 18 for the Bulls.
Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 28 points and Jeff Green had 18.
Durant missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game in the final 30 seconds before Tyrus Thomas hit four free throws to close it out for eighth-place Chicago, which leads the race for the final playoff spot by a game and a half over Milwaukee and Charlotte.
"It's such a tight race right now to get that eighth spot in the East," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "All these games we've struggled on the road and we haven't converted down the stretch, but it was nice for us tonight to convert."
Rose and Westbrook became friends while training together in Los Angeles leading up to the draft, going one-on-one and doing other drills to prepare themselves to be lottery picks.
"Basically, it was just me and him before the draft, just working out every day," Rose said.
Rose and Westbrook came in ranked second and third among rookies in scoring and 1-2 in assists. Westbrook was also seventh in rebounding but had the most turnovers among rookies and the fifth-most in the NBA overall.
The game was an opportunity for Westbrook to make a statement in the Rookie of the Year race, although he said he was approaching it like "any other game."
He had the better first half with 12 points and only one turnover while Rose was the mistake-prone one early, turning it over five times while scoring only five points. But that changed quickly.
He hit five shots in the first 5 minutes after halftime as the Bulls turned a five-point deficit into a 63-62 lead when Rose connected on a foul line jumper. The lead grew to 74-68 the Thunder rallied back ahead with seven straight points, but then Rose struck again from the right wing for a 76-75 Chicago lead.
The Bulls wouldn't trail again.
Rose finished the third quarter by losing his dribble on a drive to the basket, then recovering in time to beat the shot clock with a jumper from the left elbow to make it 80-75. That capped a 7-for-7 third quarter for Rose.
"He definitely wasn't missing in the second half," said Thunder defensive stopper Thabo Sefolosha, who was assigned to Rose part of the time. "He's that type of player. He's got a streaky jump shot but when he starts making a few of them like that, it's hard to stop him."
The Thunder made a last-ditch effort at a comeback with a string of six straight points that ended with Westbrook's layup with 56.8 seconds left, but Durant missed two 3-pointers and Westbrook also misfired on one down the stretch for Oklahoma City.
Westbrook had only three points in the second half and went 1-for-8.
"The little sucker's fast. There's no doubt about that," said Bulls forward Brad Miller, who scored 14 points. "You see him and Westbrook out there, two really good point guards in this league for a lot of years to come."
OKLAHOMA CITY 96 FINAL
Mar 18 10:26 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 75 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 18 9:44 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 56 HALFTIME
Mar 18 9:05 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY 29 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 18 8:35 PM
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