CHICAGO — The Chicago Bulls endured injuries to key players and a coaching change this week. Maybe now, the tide is turning for them.
Lauri Markkanen scored 24 points and drove for the go-ahead layup in the closing seconds to lead the Bulls to a 114-112 victory over Oklahoma City on Friday and their first win under coach Jim Boylen.
The Thunder’s Russell Westbrook had just hit a tying layup when the Finnish forward spun around Paul George and banked in a layup over the outstretch arm of Steven Adams, making it 114-112 with 4.9 seconds left.
George’s three-point attempt from the top of the key then ricocheted off the rim, and the Bulls came out on top after dropping seven in a row.
“We’ve had a couple of rough weeks here,” Markkanen said. “Adversity hit us. I think that made us stronger. (We) have to put the team first and just keep going.”
The last-second victory over one of the top teams in the Western Conference was a rare feel-good moment for Chicago in a season marked by injuries, losses and a coaching change.
“We have to learn how to win,” Boylen said. “We have to learn how to take the pressure of an NBA fourth quarter. I thought we did that.”
A long-time NBA assistant, Boylen took over Monday when Fred Hoiberg got fired following a 5-19 start. The Bulls lost at Indiana the following night in his debut.
But with Markkanen back and Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis just about ready to return from their injuries, things are looking at least a little more promising.
“You can’t give in,” said Zach LaVine, who led Chicago with 25 points.
Markkanen hit four three-pointers in his third game back after missing the first 23 because of a sprained left elbow.
Justin Holiday scored 20, going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and Jabari Parker finished with 16 points.
The Thunder won 16 of 19 following a 0-4 start and came in with a 13-0 record against teams below .500.
“A slip up is all it is tonight,” George said. “We dropped one. But we’re going to keep it rolling.”
They couldn’t pull this one out despite getting 24 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists from Westbrook. The triple-double was his 109th, though he also committed 10 turnovers.
Adams finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and George and Dennis Schroder each scored 19.
The Thunder outscored Chicago 29-17 in the third quarter to turn a 70-62 halftime deficit into a 91-87 lead going into the fourth.
They were up 98-91 when Chicago went on a 14-2 run.
LaVine hitting a tiebreaking trey, Wendell Carter Jr. had a big block against a driving Westbrook, and Markkanen added two free throws to make it a five-point game with 4:46 remaining.
“We held them to 44 in the second half and gave up 70 in the first,” coach Billy Donovan said. “When you live dangerously like that, sometimes you’re not going to be on the winning end.”