CHICAGO — Three poor possessions at the start of the fourth quarter quickly put all momentum on Chicago’s side and threatened to extend the Thunder’s misery into a second straight night.
Reggie Jackson threw the ball away.
Derek Fisher missed a deep 3 early in the shot clock.
Jackson clanged another jumper.
The Bulls burned the Thunder after each empty trip, trimming a nine-point deficit to one in just two minutes.
The home team was juiced. Its crowd suddenly was jacked.
But the Thunder didn’t panic.
Instead, the team did something it has struggled to do consistently since the All-Star break.
Oklahoma City buckled down on defense.
The Thunder pulled away from the pesky Bulls with a 16-1 run before walking out of United Center on Monday night with an impressive 97-85 win.
During the game-changing stretch, OKC held Chicago scoreless for 6 1/2 minutes and hounded the Bulls into 11 straight misses and three critical turnovers.
“We did a good job as a group,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “We kept our composure.”
The Bulls botched some open opportunities, but the Thunder’s length and scrambling defense definitely made an impact. The Thunder sealed off the paint and forced the Bulls to take their chances with long jumpers. Five of Chicago’s 11 misses during that spurt came from 3-point range. The other six were from within 10 feet, a high-percentage area that the Thunder shut down by swarming to the ball whenever the Bulls did get to the basket.
“You give yourself a chance when you play defense like that,” Brooks said.
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