Joakim Noah pulls Bulls to OT victory
For a while Wednesday night, there seemed to be an obvious antidote to the Bulls' early-season doldrums.
They needed a road game to play solid, Tom Thibodeau-style defensive basketball. The Bulls played seven of their first eight at the United Center, but the one easy victory in that 4-3 stretch happened in Cleveland.
The Bulls stepped up to the challenge of the circus trip opener in Phoenix, building an 18-point lead late in the third quarter.
It all fell apart during a nightmarish final 15 minutes, but Joakim Noah set things right in overtime and the Bulls escaped with a 112-106 victory.
Noah finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists. He hit a hook shot to give the Bulls a commanding 110-101 lead in overtime. After the Suns crawled within 4 points, Noah hesitated for a second, then drained an 18-foot jumper from the key with 29.5 seconds left.
Carlos Boozer also had a big night, with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Luol Deng scored 21 and Richard Hamilton added 15.
Kirk Hinrich returned to the lineup after missing one game with a hip strain. He was at the center of the team's fourth-quarter frustration, though.
Hinrich was called for a rarely-seen five-second violation when he couldn't shake Sebastian Telfair in the corner.
About a minute later, Telfair pestered and hacked Hinrich near midcourt. When Hinrich hooked with his arm to get past Telfair, Hinrich was called for an offensive foul, his fifth of the game, and then got a technical foul for unloading on the nearest referee.
The Suns never let the Bulls get comfortable down the stretch. Maywood native Shannon Brown scored on a driving scoop to trim the lead to 91-90 with 4:28 left. Noah hit a 17-foot jumper, but Telfair answered with a game-tying 3-pointer.
Phoenix tied it again at 95-95 on a Scola jumper with 2:15 left. That's when the Bulls got a couple of defensive stops and built some breathing room at the foul line. But they hit just 4 of 6 free throws, putting the lead at 4 when it could have been 6.
Brown finished a driving bank and 3-point play to make it 99-98. After a Bulls miss, the Suns tried to take the lead, but Brown missed a driving attempt and the ball sailed out of bounds to the Bulls as Phoenix forward Markieff Morris fell hard to the floor.
Hamilton was fouled, but he hit just 1 of 2 free throws to keep the lead a 2 points. Telfair had the ball knocked away by Hinrich and Noah, but it bounced to teammate P.J. Tucker, who dropped in a short hook to tie the score with 9.4 seconds left. Hamilton's baseline jumper was blocked just before time ran out.
The Bulls (5-3) caught a break early in overtime when forward Luis Scola (24 points, 14 rebounds) fouled out when he charged into Hinrich on a drive to the basket.
The Bulls scored the first 6 points of overtime on a Deng jumper. Boozer free throws and a Hamilton jumper.
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