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updated: 1/20/2014 11:20 PM

Bulls get back to .500 with OT win

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  • Joakim Noah, right, celebrates with teammate Taj Gibson after Gibson made the game-winning shot in overtime to defeat the Lakers on Monday night at the United Center.

      Joakim Noah, right, celebrates with teammate Taj Gibson after Gibson made the game-winning shot in overtime to defeat the Lakers on Monday night at the United Center.
    Associated Press

 
 

There's not a whole lot a team can do in a tie game with 0.9 seconds on the clock.

The Bulls made it work, though, by drawing up what looked like a football play. They lined up three players across the lane, with Taj Gibson standing directly behind the middle man in the wall, Jimmy Butler.

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On the break, two Bulls fanned out wide, Butler bulled toward the basket, and Gibson simply followed the open path.

He caught the inbound pass from Mike Dunleavy, took a step and finished a game-winning layup at the buzzer, sending the Bulls to a 102-100 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night at the United Center.

The winning play included a lead blocker, some misdirection. Is it possible coach Tom Thibodeau took a break from game tape and watched a little football Sunday? Nah, couldn't be.

"It was like (49ers quarterback Colin) Kaepernick, just running the ball down the lane trying to get a touchdown. That's how it felt," Gibson joked. "The only thing I was missing was me calling the play out, 'Hut, hut Omaha.' That's all I had to do."

Butler used a couple of defensive linemen, not blockers, for his analogy, but we get the point.

"It felt like I was J.J. Watt. Or Henry Melton, I could be him, too," Butler said. "I don't know. It was a great play drawn up by Thibs. I just saw a chance to block set a screen, not block. Set a screen because Taj's guy was behind him. It was the right play."

Asked if the play was inspired by a different sport, Thibodeau didn't admit anything.

"I don't know, to be honest. It was a good play by those guys," he said. "It's a quick read. I thought Mike made a great play on it, and Taj, obviously. You need everyone to sell the play. We had good fortune on it."

The victory turned into something of a milestone for the Bulls, because they achieved a .500 (20-20) record for the first time since Nov. 27 -- two days after Derrick Rose's knee surgery.

They've won 11 of their last 15 games and now head to Cleveland to face former teammate Luol Deng on Wednesday.

"We've dug out of a big hole," Thibodeau said. "We've still got a lot of digging to do. By no means have we arrived."

This game originally was slated for a TNT national broadcast, a prime-time slot on Martin Luther King Day. But the game was dropped by the network a few weeks ago in favor of Portland at Houston.

Instead of Derrick Rose vs. Kobe Bryant, this game turned into a pretty good matchup between D.J. Augustin and Nick Young.

Augustin led the Bulls with 27 points, including a couple of timely tying 3-pointers late in the game. Young scored 31 points, including 3 free throws with 4.1 seconds left in regulation and a pullup jumper with 6.0 seconds remaining in overtime, both of which tied the score.

Gibson and Young were teammates at USC, so Gibson was very happy he got a chance to trump Young's tying shot.

"I knew Nick way before USC and we've been real good friends," Gibson said. "We were talking trash all game. Before the game we were just telling him how we were going to light him up and all this. We were going at it. It was real fun. He's a real competitor.

"It was great to be on the opposite side. As soon as I hit the game-winner, I just started teasing him, like 'Go back to L.A.'"

Joakim Noah had another big game, finishing with 17 points, 21 rebounds and a team-high 6 assists. He was called for the foul against Young outside the 3-point line late in the fourth quarter and missed a running bank that could have won the game for the Bulls in regulation.

•Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.

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