Bulls against Celtics, overtime, hard-fought game, Joakim Noah vs. Kevin Garnett, Kirk Hinrich vs. Rajon Rondo — this all seemed so familiar.
Another familiar theme was the short-handed Bulls overcoming the odds to pull out a 100-99 road victory in Boston. The latest drama was losing top scorer Luol Deng late in the third quarter with a hamstring strain.
The Bulls led most of the way but needed Hinrich’s 18-foot jumper with 2.0 seconds left on the clock to force overtime. Then Marco Belinelli defied physics to toss in a short shot while falling backward, hitting the game-winner with 3.1 seconds left in OT.
Richard Hamilton led the Bulls with 20 points, while Carlos Boozer continued his double-double streak by finishing with 19 points and 20 rebounds.
“It was a crazy game. It was a roller-coaster,” Hamilton told reporters after the game. “We made plays and thought we had it. They made plays and thought they had it.”
Deng left the floor with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter after pulling up on a fastbreak. He injured the hamstring during Wednesday’s win in Toronto and was considered a game-time decision heading into Boston. There’s no word yet on how much time he might miss.
The Bulls host Memphis today.
In the fourth quarter, Rondo’s jumper broke an 84-84 tie with 36.6 seconds left. Boozer had a chance to tie it at the foul line, but he hit just 1 of 2 shots. Kevin Garnett converted 2 free throws to put the Celtics up by 3, then Hinrich split a pair, leaving the Bulls down 88-86 with 12.1 seconds left.
The Bulls got a break after a timeout. Instead of fouling Paul Pierce, they managed to force a jump ball when they trapped him with Noah and Jimmy Butler. Noah won the tap and Belinelli tried to drive into the lane. Rondo (30 points) reached in and knocked the ball away, but it bounced to Hinrich who drained an open 18-footer to tie the score and force overtime.
“We talked about it — you knew they were going to trap,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said, “and you’ve got to do whatever you can do not to get tied up.”
The Bulls (23-15) seemed to take control in overtime when Butler, Deng’s replacement, scored 6 straight points. First, he finished a two-hand slam off a pass from Hinrich, then he converted a lob pass from Noah into a layup. After Butler added 2 free throws, the Bulls led 96-93 with 1:16 left.
“It was really fun being out there with my guys. It’s crazy they have me out there,” Butler said. “They had faith in me. Whenever I scored a basket they kept yelling, ‘Keep going Jimmy.’”
Garnett, who was 1-for-10 from field after third quarter, nailed a jumper to make it a 1-point game. Then a terrible Bulls offensive possession ended with Belinelli heaving a corner 3-pointer off the top of the backboard. Boston took advantage by finding Jason Terry with a go-ahead jumper with 12.5 seconds on the clock.
The Bulls struggled again to work for a good shot against the Celtics’ grabby defense. Finally, Boozer tossed a bounce pass from the corner to Belinelli, who cut down the lane against Terry. Belinelli caught the pass and quickly turned his body and somehow threw in the 10-footer while falling on his back.
Boston’s desperation attempt at the buzzer was way off.
Rondo, Hinrich and Boston rookie Jared Sullinger all fouled out.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.