(WSCR) – The Bulls started their season opener in Oklahoma City and neither team led by more than eight points until the final three minutes. However, as the end of the game came closer, the Thunder pulled further away with the Bulls losing 106-95.
By JEFF LATZKE
AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Kevin Durant scored 30 points, Russell Westbrook added 28 points and 10 rebounds and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the new-look Chicago Bulls 106-95 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.
Durant and Westbrook each powered down two-handed dunks during a late 11-0 surge that put the game away. Neither team had led by more than eight before Oklahoma City started pulling away in the final 3 minutes.
Westbrook raced down the court for his slam after Serge Ibaka swatted away Derrick Rose’s shot, then turned it into a three-point play. The next trip down the court, Durant blew by Luol Deng for his own jam. Jeff Green’s 3-pointer from the right corner made it 104-91 with 89 seconds left.
Rose scored 28 points to lead the Bulls in Tom Thibodeaux’s debut as head coach. He had only four points in the final 21 minutes, his hot start cooled off by foul trouble.
Free agent acquisition Carlos Boozer sported a cast on his broken right hand, but the rest of the Bulls’ overhauled roster kept it close throughout against reigning scoring champion Durant and the rest of the Thunder. Chicago brought in eight new players after last season’s trip to the playoffs, while Daequan Cook was the only newcomer to get on the floor for Oklahoma City.
The Thunder got a brief scare at the end of the third quarter when Durant fell hard on his rear end after being called for charging into Chicago’s Ronnie Brewer. He stayed down for a few moments before hobbling off the court. Trainers stretched his legs during the break between the quarters and then had him sit on an ice pack. Durant walked to the scorer’s table to check into the game with only 3 minutes elapsed in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t long before he got fouled on the fast break and hit a pair of free throws to put Oklahoma City up 88-87, and the Thunder wouldn’t trail again.
Rose answered Durant’s jumper to get Chicago within 93-91 with 3:26 remaining, but Oklahoma City closed it out from there.
Jeff Green added 21 points and Eric Maynor scored 10 on a perfect shooting night – 3 for 3 from the field and 4 for 4 on free throws.
Joakim Noah had 19 points and 18 rebounds, Taj Gibson added 16 points and 11 rebounds and Deng scored 13 for Chicago.
Rose got the Bulls out to a hot start, hitting consecutive reverse layups in the midst of five made shots in a row, before heading to the bench with two first-quarter fouls.
Oklahoma City then fired off a 13-4 run that featured dunks by Westbrook, Ibaka and Durant to finish the first quarter up by five.
When Rose returned, he immediately started digging the Bulls out of an eight-point hole and put them back ahead 46-45 with a pair of free throws he earned by getting fouled on another reverse layup try.
The Thunder led 59-54 at halftime after Green scored 10 points in the final 2:38 before the break, but then gave up an 8-0 run to start the third quarter.
NOTES: Thunder F Nick Collison missed the game with a stress reaction in his left knee. C Byron Mullens and G Morris Peterson, acquired in a draft night trade, were also inactive. … Chicago’s jerseys have a patch on the right shoulder commemorating the 20th anniversary of the team’s first NBA title. … Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks was happy to see longtime NBA assistant Tom Thibodeaux get his shot as a head coach but not so fond of one experience playing under his tutelage with the New York Knicks during the 1996-97 season. “He was a jerk. I was like in my ninth year in the league and he put me with three rookies. I had to get there early at 4 o’clock and work out with the three rookies because he wanted me to set an example,” Brooks said. “I didn’t appreciate that.”
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