Drawing up plays in late-game pressure situations is not so easy with Derrick Rose out of the lineup. It took Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau a few tries to get it right Wednesday in Toronto.
While a 19-point lead slipped away, Thibodeau went with Marco Belinelli to close out regulation, but he missed twice, including a driving layup in the final second.
So with a chance to win in overtime, Thibodeau changed tactics and Luol Deng delivered. Deng drained a 16-foot pullup jumper with 3.3 seconds remaining to give the Bulls a 107-105 victory at the Air Canada Centre
"I thought Lu made a great read," Thibodeau told reporters after the game. "Marco did a good job of getting it in. There were some good screens set. That's Lu's strength right there."
Maybe Carlos Boozer would have been a smart option, but traditionally, it's a rare move to go inside for a game-winning shot, since it's easier for defenses to double-team.
Boozer had another big night, finishing with 36 points and 12 rebounds, while hitting 16 of 24 shots. He scored 17 in the first quarter alone and recorded his ninth double-double in the last 10 games.
The Bulls (22-15) continued to shine on the road, improving to 11-5 away from the United Center. They're 10-1 on the road in the Eastern Conference.
This one looked like it might be easy after Richard Hamilton's back-to-back 3-pointers sent the Bulls ahead 76-57 with 4:28 left in the third quarter. But the Raptors entered the night having won 10 of their last 15 and were back within 6 when the fourth quarter started.
When Toronto closed within 2 points late, the Bulls answered with a Boozer layup and 2 free throws by Deng. Belinelli split a pair of free throws with 1:07 remaining, keeping the lead at 100-97 and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (26 points) hit a driving bank to cut it to 1 with 53 seconds left.
Belinelli missed on the next trip, Boozer got the offensive rebound, but the Bulls couldn't convert. The Raptors took possession trailing by 1, Lowry missed a long jumper, but Amir Johnson grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled by Taj Gibson. Johnson hit 1 of 2 free throws, tying the score with 12.1 seconds left.
Belinelli let the clock run down, but drove into traffic and his shot never had a chance.
"You don't want to leave any time on the clock," Thibodeau said. "It's a tough play to make. I thought he had another step, could have gotten it up on the board."
The Bulls never trailed in overtime after Joakim Noah (16 points, 14 rebounds) opened the scoring with a tip in. Belinelli missed a free throw with 15.1 seconds left that would have made it a 3-point lead and Lowry tied it with a pullup in the lane with 8.7 seconds on the clock.
Deng finished with 19 point and 7 assists, while Hamilton scored 15 points in 18 minutes. Kirk Hinrich and Gibson both fouled out late in the fourth quarter. Alan Anderson led Toronto with 27 points.
"I thought a lot of guys played well," Thibodeau added. "Carlos got us going early. We hung in there and found a way to win at the end."