Bulls top Thunder 104-98 in exciting battle

The Bulls Thursday came back from a discouraging loss against Charlotte with their best game of the season, a 104-98 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Derrick Rose scored 29 points, including 10 straight down the stretch, while Jimmy Butler added 26. Pau Gasol had 11. Kevin Durant had 33 for the Thunder and Russell Westbrook 20. The Bulls are 4-2 and play Minnesota Saturday.

A terrific back and forth fourth quarter was decided by a vintage Rose run of drives and jump shots that assured the victory before a closing Gasol running hook for the exclamation.

The Bulls went with a change to start as they needed some change after the bad loss to Charlotte Tuesday. Doug McDermott started for Tony Snell at small forward to provide more scoring potential, though the Thunder defended it well and got off to a 17-8 start before coach Fred Hoiberg began substituting and found some combinations working better. Though the difference was the more spirited play of Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson playing more fiercely and physically. The Thunder still led 28-25 after the first quarter as Russell Westbrook had 10 points. But the Bulls demonstrating more defensive aggression opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run for a 36-30 lead, the highlight a Butler pass to Gibson for a three-point play on a reverse and then Rose whipping a pass to a cutting Butler for a slam dunk. It helped the Bulls to a 57-50 halftime lead with Butler scoring 21 and Rose 11.

The Bulls surged ahead 63-54 to open the second half after a Butler steal and pass to McDermott for a score. But behind Durant’s 10 in the quarter and Serge Ibaka’s jump shooting the Thunder shot themselves back into the game as the Bulls held onto a 76-73 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Rose and Butler were the only Bulls scoring in double figures through three quarters with 40 of the team’s 76 points. The Bulls behind Noah’s direction and hustle opened the fourth quarter taking an 87-77 lead with 8:48 left. But Durant shot the Thunder back to tie at 90 with about five minutes left until the sturm and drang down the stretch.