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Chicago Bulls hang on to top Oklahoma City Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY — Jokingly, Brad Miller and John Salmons were starting to think it was them.
Winless away from the United Center since they began playing for the Bulls, the two veterans again came up big to snap that seven-game road skid with a 103-96 victory Wednesday night over the improved Thunder at the Ford Center.
Derrick Rose made all 10 of his second-half shots, nine on jumpers, to lead the Bulls with 25 points, while Salmons added 20 and Miller did the dirty work with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.
The Bulls overcame 22 turnovers, atrocious first-half defense and a near-collapse late in the game to increase their lead to 11/2 games over the Bucks and Bobcats for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"This is big for our confidence," Salmons said. "If we take care of business, we won't have to worry about anybody else."
These being the Bulls, there was unnecessary drama.
Leading 99-90 with 1 minute 56 seconds remaining, Miller missed two free throws. Kevin Durant, who led the Thunder with 28 points, made two free throws. Following a Ben Gordon miss, Nick Collison scored.
Miller and Tyrus Thomas missed on the same possession, and Russell Westbrook scored to make it a one-possession game. Miller then rebounded a Gordon miss, but Thomas didn't know the ball hadn't hit the rim and held on as the shot clock expired.
But the Bulls forced Durant into a rushed three-pointer on a broken play, and Thomas, who posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds, made four free throws down the stretch.
Thanks to 14 turnovers that helped the Thunder shoot 59.5 percent in the first half, the Bulls trailed 56-51 at halftime. It could have been worse if Gordon hadn't scored seven straight of his eventual 18 points to close the half.
Rose took over in the third, scoring 10 of the Bulls' first 12 points in only 4:25 to give them a 63-62 lead.
"I told him that helps the percentage," Miller joked. "Now he can have a 3-for-12 dud night and still be good."
Kirk Hinrich hit two fourth-quarter three-pointers and Miller grabbed two offensive rebounds and scored five points to give the Bulls breathing room before the late near-collapse.
"I was just shooting," Rose said. "I felt it. The team trusted me to shoot those shots, so I was just pulling up. I didn't want to lose."
Finally on the road, the Bulls didn't.