Cavs' Mitchell scores 71 while Bulls call foul in OT loss

When the Bulls walked off the floor at halftime with an 18-point lead in Cleveland, the chances of an all-time franchise record being set by an opponent seemed remote.

But bad defense and too many fouls can create some amazing stories. Donovan Mitchell erupted in the second half and scored 71 points as the Cavaliers rallied to beat the Bulls 145-134 in overtime.

It's the most points scored by an NBA player in one game since Kobe Bryant netted 81 in 2006. The previous record by a Bulls opponent was Wilt Chamberlain's 68 points on Dec. 16, 1967. Michael Jordan's career high was 69 points.

So history was made, but from the Bulls' perspective, this game never should have gone to overtime, in which case Mitchell would have finished with 58 points.

It looked like the Bulls would do what was needed to secure a victory when Nikola Vucevic knocked down a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left to break a 123-123 tie. Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White went 4-for-4 at the foul line, keeping the lead at 3 with 7.4 seconds left.

The Bulls chose to foul Mitchell before the Cavaliers could get off a potential tying 3-point attempt. That's a popular strategy, but it only works if you box out on the free throws.

Mitchell hit the first foul shot and missed the second on purpose. Patrick Williams attempted to block him out, but didn't get much of a body on him and Mitchell darted toward the basket and followed in his own miss. The Bulls sent in Andre Drummond to help secure the rebound and he got beat by Robin Lopez, who might have tipped it in if Mitchell didn't.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan felt Mitchell should have been called for a lane violation because he crossed the free-throw line before the ball hit the rim.

"It's a clear violation, unequivocally," Donovan said. "He's crossing the line before the ball touches the rim, that's the first thing. Unfortunately, we can't control that and we've got to control what we can control. So in that situation, we've got to come across and get the shooter.

"I think one of the reasons he beat Patrick was because he went in there too early. Listen, in that situation, we've got to find a way to come up with the ball."

The Bulls had no chance in overtime, missing their first 7 shots with 5 of those coming from the 3-point line. Mitchell hit 3 straight 3-pointers in OT.

DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 44 points, though he missed a 3-pointer that could have won it at the end of regulation. Zach LaVine scored 26 and Vucevic had 20.

Donovan felt like this was the second straight game where foul calls contributed to a Bulls loss. When the Cavs won by 1 at the United Center on Saturday, the NBA's last-two minute report said Caris Levert should have been called for a foul on DeRozan's final shot attempt, which would have meant 2 free throws with a chance to win.

"It's 25 free throws (by Mitchell). That's where it is," Donovan said. "Our help was constantly fouling, fouling, fouling. The fouling was a major, major contributor to (Mitchell's) points. Listen, he had an unbelievable game, it was an incredible performance, I give him a lot of credit, he made a lot of tough shots. But I also think we contributed to some of it with the fouling.

"They ramped up their pressure (in the second half). I thought we should have gotten to the free-throw line a lot more. They were getting there nonstop. ... It was hard to watch at times, just some of the consistency on the fouls. The free throws were a huge factor in the game."

The Bulls spent much of the game incensed about the disparity in foul calls. In the fourth quarter, Mitchell put his shoulder into DeRozan and sent him sliding backward on the floor. There was no whistle, and Mitchell tossed it out to Kevin Love, who buried a 3-pointer while DeRozan was still on the ground.

Late in the fourth, Alex Caruso fouled out when Levert tripped over his foot. Mitchell hit 20 of his 25 free throws. The previous season-high for free-throw attempts by a Bulls opponent was Boston's Jayson Tatum with 17.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) shoots against Chicago Bulls center Nikola Vucevic (9) and guard Ayo Dosunmu (12) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Associated Press
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell (45) celebrates after making a basket during the overtime of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane) Associated Press
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