Previous ArticlesBulls lacking much wizardry against Washington
Bulls with a triple overtime win in Orlando
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jan 16
The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
Triple overtime wins, like the Bulls’ 128-125 victory over the Orlando Magic Wednesday, can be ugly as well.
Even when Joakim Noah has season-highs of 26 points and 19 rebounds and when rookie Tony Snell is dunking flying in from the free throw line like Vince Carter and leading the team in scoring in the clinching overtime and when Mike Dunleavy is sending the game to a second overtime with a three and Jimmy Butler plays a franchise record 60 minutes and there are 20 lead changes and 14 ties.
This one was fun and memorable and exciting and so out of character that even Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said his team was “funky most of the night.”
This was a game in which the Bulls trailed by 15 points late in the third quarter, a game in which the Magic led by rookie Victor Oladipo with a career high 35 points and playing without leading scorer Arron Afflalo and leading rebounder Nik Vucevic shot 51 percent. And coming in on an eight-game losing streak by an average of 17 points per game.
It was a game in which the Bulls with a last possession in regulation with the game tied tried to win it on a Butler drive. The last shot? He was stripped for a turnover to send the game into overtime.
It was in the first overtime despite four turnovers and trailing by three, Dunleavy curled over a bruising Noah screen to pull up for a three to tie the game with 13.4 seconds left. Noah then was able to force Jameer Nelson, who had 31 points and 10 assists, to shot fake long enough after taking him on a switch that the shot clock went off a fraction before what would have been Nelson’s winner.
Then in the second overtime and leading by three with 14.8 seconds left, the Bulls had Noah shooting a jumper, which he air balled. Noah shooting a winner? Glen Davis, of all players, then made a three pointer to tie the game. Noah, speaking of all players, then drove down the left side in an attempt to win the game. Again? But the Magic with a foul to give fouled him and Dunleavy missed a three at the buzzer.
It did appear both teams were picking plays out of a hat sent in by fans.
Ugly doesn’t have to be 82-78.
But finally in the third overtime with Snell, again of all players and playing all but three seconds of the three overtimes after only playing occasionally all season, opened the session with a three for a 122-119 lead. The Bulls fell behind on six straight Magic points. But Noah scored rolling to the basket on a pass from D.J. Augustin, who had 19 points, nine assists and zero turnovers and also played almost the entire three overtimes. The Bulls forced Oladipo into a miss on more Noah pressure. And then with the shot clock about to expire in a typical Bulls hot potato possession, the Bulls threw the ball to Snell. To bail them out?
And the kid did, waiting for a defender fly by and stepping coolly to his left and making a 17 footer for the last of his 15 points with 48.6 seconds left.
Noah then blocked an Oladipo try, Augustin missed, and with one more try the Magic again curiously went to Davis. He airballed a three when Nelson appeared to have a lane for a winning drive and passed back to Davis to shoot a three.
It must have been the humidity.
The Magic then fouled Butler with four tenths of a second left and the Bulls ahead 126-125. Just missing the second free throw would end the game as at least three tenths would come off, no time to shoot. But Butler, likely dizzy from the exertion, made both. It gave the Magic one last chance and Noah barely avoided a foul on the three point try.
That was simple, right?
“Just found a way,” said Noah. “That’s what it’s all about. We didn’t play great basketball tonight, but we found a way. We came back from the dead. A lot of people stepped up. The rook. Got to give him some love. The space jam dunk (to open the second overtime); that was big. Big jumpers.
“All you have at the end of your career is you have your memories,” Noah, the Bulls plowhorse and poet laureate, went on. “I think those are things, memories are the things you cannot take for granted. Playing in these types of games you come back from the dead, you’ll remember these games.
“There’s nothing better than the feeling of getting on the bus, that feeling when you win,” said Noah. “Even the guys who say ‘I don’t care’, they are driving home right now pissed off. There is no better feeling than winning a basketball game. This is the healthiest I’ve felt in a long time. I’m just enjoying playing basketball.”
That really is the true meaning of playing them one at a time, the significance of the principal sports cliché that applies best to the Bulls and this season.
With Derrick Rose injured, though he traveled with the team for the first time on this trip that goes to Washington Friday, with Luol Deng traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the suspicion they are supposed to be playing to lose to get a better draft pick for the organization, the joy now is strictly in the game, in that time on the court with your teammates when you can do something special. Or not so great. But to be out there, as a team, playing for one another no matter what everyone else thinks and does. And then to get an unlikely or surprising win, to see your teammate make a great shot or play and add one yourself, and someone with another. And then to ride back on the bus and on the plane and get to the hotel letting it all wash over you. And so what if no one is waiting and they don’t much talk about you on TV. You know you did something wonderful and together and it’s enough for a day.
“We’re grimy,” said Butler, who had 21 points. “And we play as a team. There is no guy that doesn’t give all the effort on every single play. Whenever you play like that, good things happen.”
For these Bulls perhaps half the time as they went to 18-19. The Magic lost their ninth straight to fall to 10-29.
But it turned into a rollicking good time for the Bulls.
Carlos Boozer was ill and not supposed to play. But he said he popped some medicine and dragged himself through 28 minutes, shooting well for 23 points, though he didn’t play after the third quarter. Thibodeau went pretty much the rest of the way after that 15-point third quarter deficit with Noah, Butler, Gibson, Augustin and Snell.
It’s Thibs the mad lineup scientist.
“That was the group that started to get something going,” said Thibodeau “I wanted to see how far that would go. You get to the six minute mark (in the fourth quarter) and… we were funky most of the night. That group had it going and once you are there you take your chances.”
So Thibodeau basically rode them the last 27 minutes of playing time.
And a franchise record minutes in one game for Butler. Asked about the 60 minutes, Thibodeau wondered whether that’s what the CBS news show was about.
“Jimmy, 60 minutes, named after a TV show I guess. He was awesome,” said Thibodeau.
C’mon, who says the guy can’t do standup? He’s a cut up.
And while the Bulls made their share of curious plays and decisions, they also made one more that the other guys, enough to get the win.
As we know by now, every win is going to be difficult for this shorthanded Bulls team. Their defense seems worn down, giving up 50 percent shooting combined the last three games. But the Bulls are 4-1 since the Deng trade. The schedule looks soft with eight straight sub-.500 teams, Orlando the fourth. But that’s also what these teams have been saying with the undermanned and sub-.500 Bulls coming in. And why not with a 7-11 road record and last in the league in scoring, 29th in overall shooting and 28th in three point shooting.
But the Bulls with a scattered Orlando offense that, like most teams, tries to push the ball and force the non scoring Bulls into a faster pace, were 12 of 33 on threes. They shot 42.5 percent and even had 10 fast break points. Enter those guys in the Kentucky Derby!
But if you talk about a horse, it once again was Noah, even if the Bulls failed to take advantage enough early on. It wasn’t one of Thibodeau’s great nights, either, as the Magic had Tobias Harris guarding Noah and Glen Davis on Boozer or Gibson and the Bulls failed constantly to go inside as they would usually. They fell in love with the three, whose affection is rarely mutual for the Bulls. Still, they endured thanks to another fabulous effort by Noah.
It was Noah 10th consecutive game with double figure rebounds. He’s seventh in the league overall and one of nine players averaging a double/double this season, just two in the Eastern Conference.
“Jo’s rebounding and defense was off the charts,” gushed Thibodeau. “We had a hard time getting stops. And they made some tough shots. We’ve got to get our defense together. But anytime you get a win on the road it’s good. There are not many players like (Noah). His all around defense, every aspect from the rebounding effort to seeing things early, how they’re developing, the ability to switch, to contain. But probably the most important thing is his ability to make two, three and four efforts on the same play. And often times I don’t know how he gets to the ball. It’s just great effort. I think when you see that, those types of things, that helps unite and inspire your team. He’s terrific. The thing right now about his offense I think is so good is that he’s making really quick decisions. They’re right on the money. There’s no holding the ball. It’s just a quick decision.
“He’s got great will to win,” Thibodeau added. “No matter what’s going on in a game. He was terrific in every aspect of the game tonight. But even sometimes when things aren’t going his way, when a game’s on the line he’s going to find a way to make something good happen. And that’s important. Going into the fourth quarter things didn’t look very good. Then all of a sudden you get a couple of hustle plays, you get a couple threes. Everyone’s contributing and that’s what’s important. The will of the team has been tremendous.”
Of course, there aren’t many left. But that’s another story.
It wasn’t a particularly good effort for the Bulls much of regulation after taking an early 22-12 lead on accurate Boozer shooting. With Oladipo beating the Bulls constantly on the perimeter and too fast for even their help defenders, the Magic scored on 10 straight second quarter possessions to take a 49-46 lead going into halftime.
Orlando would outscore the Bulls 60-42 in the paint, which doesn’t happen often, and mostly on driving baskets with late help, which happens even less often. So this didn’t look like a fun time in the NBA’s happiest place.
Oladipo continued to drive the Bulls nutty in the third quarter as Orlando went ahead 70-55 and led 80-73 after three only because Dunleavy, Butler and Augustin hit threes in the last 2:18 of the quarter.
That finally seemed to awaken a Bulls team that had been unusually casual much of the game. But Thibodeau agreed an offensive spurt can do that.
The Bulls with a Snell three pulled within 82-81 early in the fourth quarter. And then it was a highlight show of the improbable filled with shake your head flubs and open your mouth unlikely scores.
“It didn’t look very good for a while there,” agreed Thibodeau. “We got down big. Just kept battling, and in the end found a way to win. We had to win it a couple times.”
Snell, who had played tentatively and seemingly scared until the last two games, again was lively and sure. He would add a second three as the Bulls got ahead 98-95 with 3:50 left.
But Nelson, who off the pick and roll also was giving the Bulls fits, ran out for a score after an errant Butler drive. Augustin hit a cool step back three with a minute left for a 101-97 Bulls lead and it seemed over. But Harris tipped in an Oladipo miss among three tiring Bulls big men, Noah airballed a floater and Nelson hit a high arcing 20 footer over Noah’s outstretched arm to tie it at 101 with 11.2 seconds left. Nelson gamboled back in a vulgar dance we saw a bit last season from Marco Belinelli. Later, Davis would hit a big shot and be screaming obscenities into the stands. It could be the heat.
The Bulls had a last chance and ran an odd Butler drive for a winner that went nowhere.
Into the first overtime it went with the game see sawing: Butler opening with a three, Orlando with five straight, Augustin with a jumper, but the Magic outhustling the Bulls, Davis on the floor to save a pass to Harris for a score. The Bulls appeared to have one chance left down three with 15.7 seconds left. Thibodeau made a terrific call with a double screen and Dunleavy getting open curling left to right for the three to tie at 111. Nelson then held the ball too long trying for the last shot. Noah came out off the switch, forcing Nelson to double clutch and get off the shot that went in too late.
Second Overtime: Neither team had won in overtime this season and the Bulls already had lost a triple overtimer.
This time after a Noah tip in of a Gibson miss to give the Bulls a 119-116 lead with 38.4 seconds left, Davis airballed a three two seconds into the shot clock and it seemed over again for a Bulls victory. The highlight this night would be the opener of the second overtime when Snell, generally cautious with the ball, took off on a drive from the left wing, got into the lane and just in front of the free throw line went up and reached out with his long arms and dunked. BoomShakaLaka! The shock and awe of the move sent the Bulls bench into convulsions. And it seemed almost time to celebrate. But after a Noah miss, Davis made the ninth three pointer of his NBA career.
Third Overtime: It was Snell again to start with the three and with a revived defense holding Orlando to 22 percent shooting, Snell added the big bail out jumper and the Bulls headed to the bus to sit and smile and enjoy one another just one more time.