It took the Bulls roughly six quarters before their defense found a way to clamp down on the slippery Washington Wizards.
But even after building a 10-point lead midway through the fourth quarter in Tuesday's Game 2, scrappiness alone couldn't put the ball in the basket.
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The Bulls scored 12 points over the final 12 minutes of the game, went nearly eight minutes without a field goal and dropped a frustrating 101-99 overtime decision at the United Center. The Bulls now trail this first-round series 2-0 with Games 3 and 4 in Washington.
"Throughout the year, it hasn't been pretty," said the Bulls' Joakim Noah. "But we're a team that found a way. The last two games we fell short. So we're disappointed, but we're not going to stop fighting."
After giving up the 10-point lead down the stretch, the Bulls fell behind in overtime and trailed 101-95 with 42.6 seconds left after Washington guard John Wall hit a pair of free throws.
The Bulls finally scored on a layup by Noah, got the ball back on an offensive foul and Noah hit 2 free throws with 34.7 seconds on the clock. After getting a defensive stop, they had a chance to tie the game when Kirk Hinrich went to the foul line with 2.4 seconds left, but he missed the first attempt, clanked the second one on purpose and the Wizards grabbed the rebound as time expired.
"I mean, I was upset," Hinrich said. "I thought I should have made the layup, to be honest. I just wasn't able to do it. I thought I might have shot a little quick, thinking about it now in my mind. Just have to move on."
The Bulls got several bad breaks down the stretch. Washington guard Bradley Beal (26 points) drained a couple of open 3-pointers after the Bulls lost a scramble for a loose ball.
The Bulls lost a chance to get the last shot of regulation when Taj Gibson was not granted a time out after diving on an offensive rebound. On the ensuing jump ball, Nene shoved Gibson out of the way with one arm and tipped the ball to a teammate with the other.
"It's the playoffs. It's a 12-round fight," Gibson said. "There were a lot of emotions in the game. It was a constant battle."
Still, it's tough to win when a team can't score down the stretch. D.J. Augustin led the Bulls with 25 points, but he barely touched the ball after Washington put 6-8 Trevor Ariza the defensive assignment.
"It's tough because he's 6-8, 6-7, so it's tough for me to get open and get shots off," Augustin said. "It was a good strategy for them. I think we went to some counters to get somebody else open. They were smart and they played good tonight.
"It's tough, but it's not over with. We still have that mindset that we can win and we're going to go to Washington with that mindset. Just try to keep working and keep fighting."
Washington basically blew the Bulls off the court in the first quarter. The visitors opened a 7-0 lead after three trips down the floor and it grew to 29-12 when Trevor Ariza drained a 3-pointer with 1:57 left in the quarter.
The Bulls had a couple of careless turnovers that led to easy fast-break buckets the other way. But mostly this was a matter of the Wizards hitting shots while the Bulls weren't.
Coach Tom Thibodeau went to the bench early, giving Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy quick hooks. He found a sorely-needed spark, though, in Augustin.
After shooting 3 for 15 from the field in Game 1, Augustin drained three quick ones, including a pair of 3-pointers to quickly trim the deficit to 29-20.
The second quarter saw the Bulls at their scrappiest. Gibson was all over the offensive glass and scored 13 points in the quarter.
Then there was a flashback to 2009, with Hinrich getting into a heated shoving match with Beal. Hinrich's skirmish with Rajon Rondo in the '09 playoffs will forever be included on Hinrich's career highlight tape.
This time, Hinrich reacted to a forearm to the face from Beal while waiting for an inbounds pass. Beal was called for the foul and both players received technicals.
In the third quarter, Noah and Ariza earned double technicals for getting in each other's face after battling for rebound position. Noah appeared to take exception to an elbow to the chest.
The Bulls used a 14-2 run late in the quarter to close within 47-46, but Wall finished the first half by scoring 7 straight points and the Wizards led 56-49 at intermission.
In Game 1, Wall and Beal combined to shoot 28 percent from the field (7 for 25). On Tuesday, the two guards totaled 27 points in the first half while shooting 53 percent (10 for 19).