They’re streak­ing havoc

Rose scores 26 as Bulls reach .500 mark with 4th road win in a row

Chicago Sun-Times - - Sports Bulls 96, Thunder 86 - BY JA­SON KERSEY

OK­LA­HOMA CITY — The Ok­la­homa City Thun­der slowed the Bulls’ mo­men­tum once this sea­son; the Bulls weren’t about to let it hap­pen again.

They reached the .500 mark for the first time since Nov. 22 with a 96-86 victory Wed­nes­day over the Thun­der at the Ford Cen­ter.

It was the Bulls’ sea­son-best­ty­ing fourth con­sec­u­tive victory and their eighth win in the last 10 games.

Der­rick Rose, who has av­er­aged 26.3 points dur­ing the Bulls’ winning streak, had 26 points and seven as­sists.

‘‘I told the guys in the hud­dle that we owe this team, and it’s gonna be a dog­fight,’’ Rose said.

Ok­la­homa City had beaten the Bulls 98-85 on Jan. 4 to halt a fourgame winning streak.

For­ward Taj Gib­son had a ca­reer­high 15 re­bounds and added two blocks.

The Thun­der strug­gled to slow down cen­ter Joakim Noah and backup Brad Miller. Noah had 13 points, 11 re­bounds, four steals and two blocks, and Miller scored 14 points.

‘‘When you go on the road, it builds char­ac­ter and con­fi­dence,’’ Noah said. ‘‘I’m happy with the way things are go­ing right now.

‘‘Things are def­i­nitely looking up. Last month, it was al­most like a dis­as­ter.’’

The road victory is the Bulls’ fourth in a row against West­ern Con­fer­ence play­off con­tenders. They won Fri­day in Phoenix, Satur­day in Hous­ton and Mon­day in San An­to­nio.

It’s the Bulls’ first four-game road winning streak since March 26April 17, 2006.

They’ll try to end the seven-game road trip on a high note Fri­day against the New Orleans Hor­nets, an­other West­ern Con­fer­ence team with play­off as­pi­ra­tions.

The Bulls (22-22) led 56-47 at half­time but al­lowed the Thun­der back in the game dur­ing a rough third quar­ter in which Ok­la­homa City outscored them 19-12.

The Thun­der re­took the lead, its first since the beginning of the sec­ond quar­ter, on an 18-foot jumper by rookie James Har­den with 1:38 left in the third.

The Bulls, though, held a 68-66 lead af­ter three quar­ters.

They had sev­eral siz­able leads but weren’t able to pull away from Ok­la­homa City for good un­til they went on a 15-5 run in the fourth quar­ter.

Rose sealed the victory with a slam dunk with 52 sec­onds left.

‘‘It all starts with Der­rick Rose,’’ Noah said. ‘‘Der­rick Rose is play­ing the best bas­ket­ball he has played as a Chicago Bull so far.

‘‘He’s mak­ing the right de­ci­sions. When your point guard is play­ing like that, it usu­ally leads to good things.’’

Thun­der for­ward Kevin Du­rant, who came into the game as the league’s third-lead­ing scorer, scored his first points at the 2:10 mark in the first quar­ter.

He fin­ished with 28 but was never re­ally able to get into a rhythm.

‘‘We just won four in a row; we just beat some good bas­ket­ball teams,’’ Noah said.

‘‘We’re just a con­fi­dent bas­ket­ball team, and we feel like we can beat any­body.’’

SUE OGROCKI~AP

Bulls guard Der­rick Rose tries to avoid Ok­la­homa City’s Rus­sell West­brook in the sec­ond quar­ter on Wed­nes­day.

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