OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) —Russell Westbrook had 36 points and 11 rebounds and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the Chicago Bulls 109-100 on Sunday afternoon.
Centers Enes Kanter (18 points, 18 rebounds) and Steven Adams (14 points, 11 rebounds) both posted double-doubles for the Thunder.
For only the third time in the Thunder’s last nine games, Westbrook didn’t record a triple-double, recording only six assists, largely because his teammates weren’t shooting well early and Westbrook took over as the team’s primary offensive option late. Oklahoma City shot 46 percent from the field, with Westbrook finishing 12 of 27.
Westbrook’s final assist came on the game-turning play. With the Thunder up 99-95 in the final minute, he held the basketball until near the end of the shot clock, then passed to Anthony Morrow, who swished a 3-pointer to seal the win.
Nikola Mirotic scored 27 points and Pau Gasol added 20 for Chicago.
Oklahoma City won for the 16th time in its last 18 home games and earned a season split with the Bulls, who won in Chicago on March 5 on a 3-pointer by E’Twaun Moore with 2.1 seconds left. The rematch was tight throughout — neither team led by more than nine points – but it was Westbrook making plays in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference.
With the Thunder clinging to a 96-95 lead, Westbrook drove the lane and earned two free throws, making one with 1:27 left. At the other end, he stepped in front of a pass by Aaron Brooks, stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a layup to give Oklahoma City a 99-95 cushion with 1:12 left.
Oklahoma City’s Dion Waiters stripped Moore on a drive toward the basket and the ball glanced off Moore’s hand with 1 minute left, giving the Thunder possession. After Morrow’s 3-pointer, Gasol scored for Chicago. Westbrook then received a quick inbounds pass, and with Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau screaming at his players to trap the elusive Thunder guard, Westbrook drove all the way to the basket for a layup.
Westbrook made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 12.3 seconds to cap a 14-point quarter.
Both teams struggled mightily offensively in the first quarter – the Thunder shooting 20.7 percent, the Bulls 29.2 percent. But Oklahoma City – which leads the NBA in rebounding – held a 22-14 edge on the boards and a 17-15 lead at quarter’s end.
The Thunder went ahead by eight points early in the second quarter but Chicago pulled even at 47-47 by halftime. Oklahoma City closed the third quarter on a 7-2 run, capped by Kanter’s tip-in of a missed free throw by Westbrook, to go ahead 75-70.
The lead changed hands four times in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter.
Joakim Noah added 15 points and seven assists for Chicago
Bulls: Thibodeau didn’t offer a specific timetable as to when injured forwards Jimmy Butler (left elbow sprain) and Taj Gibson (left ankle injury) might be able to return, but he said Gibson has returned to practice . Chicago hasn’t won in Oklahoma City since Jan. 27, 2010 . Gasol just missed what would have been a 45th double-double this season, grabbing eight rebounds.
Thunder: Oklahoma City started two centers, Kanter and Adams, in an attempt to slow the Bulls’ potent frontline duo of Gasol and Noah. Kanter set a Thunder record with 10 rebounds in the first quarter. . Thunder F Serge Ibaka missed a second straight game due to knee soreness. Coach Scott Brooks said Ibaka remains day-to-day. . Kanter’s double-double was his sixth since joining the Thunder at the NBA trade deadline, while Adams recorded his fifth double-double of the season.
Bulls: Host Indiana on Wednesday.
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