- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Derrick Rose scored 20 of his 25 points and didn’t miss a shot in the second half as the Chicago Bulls snapped a seven-game road losing streak by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 103-96 on Wednesday night.

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.

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.

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.

It was Rose who was mistake-prone early, though, with five first-half turnovers before he cleaned up his act and found his shooting range.

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.

Kirk Hinrich hit a pair of 3-pointers, including one that had to be reviewed before it was changed from a two-pointer, as Chicago extended its lead early in the fourth quarter. Brad Miller’s putback of a Thomas miss put the Bulls up 95-86 with 5:49 to play.

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.

Miller finished with 14 points and Thomas had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Chicago.

Nick Collison had 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder.

The Bulls trailed most of the first half and were down by as many as seven before Gordon led a comeback and put Chicago up 51-50 on his jumper from the left side with 1:50 to go before halftime. Durant then drove the left baseline for a layup to put the Thunder back ahead, and he also hit a running jumper just before the clock hit zero for a 56-51 Oklahoma City lead at halftime.

Notes:@ Thunder sent D.J. White, who has missed the entire season after surgery to remove a growth from his jaw, to its NBDL affiliate in Tulsa after he was cleared by team doctors. … Thomas had his streak of games with at least one blocked shot snapped at 29. It was a Bulls record and the longest current run in the NBA. … Collison, already playing with a splint on his broken left thumb, added another one to protect a chipped bone in the tip of his right middle finger.

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