Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls run out of gas late in 4OT classic with Pistons

Bulls fall 147-144 despite 43 points from Butler, 34 from Rose and 30 from Gasol

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By Sam Smith | 12.19.2015 | 10:00 a.m.

Well, at least the team doesn’t have to worry about the players going out for a late night in New York before Saturday’s game.

Because the Bulls Friday had a late night in Chicago, working overtime without much satisfaction. That’s because in the second four-overtime game in franchise history, the Bulls even with three players scoring at least 30 points for the first time in 30 years lost 147-144 to the Detroit Pistons. The NBA has only had 13 such four overtime games in its history.

NBA-TV for Saturday already has scheduled a late afternoon replay of what it is calling a classic game.

The Bulls might probably have seen enough.

“We expect to win, four overtimes or no overtimes,” said Jimmy Butler after his career best 43 points that included 21 points in the last three overtimes. “We didn’t do that. So we have to get this one tomorrow. We had some mental lapses, but we played well. We did our jobs; we just came up short. We gave one away at home, so we’ve got to take one on the road. They made some good shots; that’s what good players do.”

A career best?

“Doesn’t matter,” said Butler. “We lost; we’ve got to win tomorrow.”

It proved an historic letdown for the Bulls in a game with 16 ties and 16 lead changes, in which the starters on both teams were stretched out to their apparent limit as both teams played their starters almost exclusively through the four overtimes. It was a game with the 43 for Butler in just under 56 minutes, a season high 34 points in just over 54 minutes for Derrick Rose and 30 points, 15 rebounds, five assist and five blocks for Pau Gasol in 48 minutes. The Pistons’ Reggie Jackson with 13 of his 31 points in the fourth overtime—Butler also had 13 points in that fourth overtime—proved the final decisive factor along with Pistons’ center Andre Drummond, who had 33 points and 21 rebounds.

Though both teams, as these things invariably go, had ample chances they’ll look back upon, more so the Bulls who rebounded from a 92-87 fourth quarter deficit with 4:52 left to give Rose a chance at a winner at the buzzer. His 19 footer was short.

Similarly, Rose earlier this season missed at the end of regulation against the Pistons, who now have defeated the Bulls both times this season, and both times in overtime. The Bulls are 15-9 and the Pistons are 16-12.

Then Jackson missed a 20 footer to end the first overtime after Gasol tied the game with 11 seconds left on a nice roll to the rim as Butler was trapped.

The Bulls had their best chance to win in the second overtime, one of two they scored first, when they took a 121-117 lead after Butler began the five-minute session with a driving slam dunk and the Pistons seemed taken aback with isolation plays. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope saved them with a tough three from the left corner to tie it at 123 with 36.9 seconds left. Butler rebounded his miss with 13.9 seconds left and missed again. Jackson missed a short shot with 2.9 seconds left. The Bulls conceivably could have moved the ball up with a timeout with 1.7 seconds left with the rebound.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg afterward said on review he should have taken a timeout there to get a chance instead of a desperation heave, though it wasn’t fatal at the time. Still, it remained one of many second guess situations that the coaches and fans will review when this sort of game is lost.

The Bulls again took the lead to open the third overtime, but the Pistons quickly closed the Bulls’ 127-123 lead with the pick and roll with Jackson and Drummond that bedeviled the Bulls throughout the game. Drummond scored both times as the Bulls too often failed to foul one of the league’s poorest free throw shooters, though he was better than his average with five of 10 for the game. The Bulls also failed to go at Drummond enough as Drummond played all the overtimes with five fouls and didn’t foul out until about a minute left in the fourth overtime with the Pistons leading 143-137.

Gasol did have an open right corner three with 6.9 seconds left in that third overtime with the score tied. He missed and Jackson ran down after he rebounded and missed at the buzzer to go to the historic fourth overtime.

It seemed hopeless for the Bulls at that point in the fourth overtime as Detroit still led by five points with 52.2 seconds. But Nikola Mirotic in a rare appearance for a reserve in the overtime—the Bulls reserves totaled 149 seconds in the four overtimes and the Pistons’ reserves 39 seconds in the three before last minute foul outs—made a pair of free throws to bring the Bulls within 145-141.

Butler then defended Jackson, which had mostly been left to Rose, and blocked Jackson’s attempt. Jackson got his shot back and Gasol blocked the second attempt. Butler missed a three with 20 seconds left. But Caldwell-Pope missed both free throws as the Bulls had to foul, the Pistons 27 of 46 overall from the free throw line. The Bulls were 39-44 on free throws in the marathon three hour and 24-minute game. Rose got trapped in the right corner and swung the ball out to Butler, who made a three to bring the Bulls within one with 4.7 seconds left. Jackson made two free throws with 4.4 seconds left and Butler missed a last gasp—and were they gasping by now—three for the tie for the fifth overtime.

“It’s hard to fight hard with everything you have and lose like that in four overtimes at home,” said Gasol. “It’s a heartbreaker. We fought like hell and competed as hard as we could and gave ourselves a chance. They made more plays than us at the end.

“Losing a four-overtime game at home with everything we put into it is hard, with an much energy as we put into it,” agreed Gasol. “It does hurt. We’ll discuss what we want to do (for Saturday). I love to compete and play; I love to be with my teammates, of course.”

The NBA schedule waits for no one as the Bulls close the back to back in New York Saturday.

Given the extra playing time for the starters, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see at least Rose and Gasol not play. Perhaps the Bulls use different starters as the reserve group didn’t play much. It also seems a prime opportunity for rookie Bobby Portis, especially since the home Knicks start a rookie in Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks also are playing the second of a back to back, though only after a return from Philadelphia.

“Obviously, we have to play another game and we have to compete,” said Hoiberg. “We’ll get in obviously very late (probably 4 a.m. New York time) and guys played a lot of minutes. We’re going to have to probably get some guys out a little earlier with the rotation. We’ll have to play more guys. We’ll have to find a way.

”Guys were fighting. We thought we had the guys in there that would give us the best opportunity to win the game with Derrick and Jimmy having it going and Pau out there,” said Hoiberg. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get off to a good enough start in that fourth overtime.”

And so went in one of the most unique games in NBA history.

It wasn’t beautifully played as fatigue seemed apparent for both teams in overtime. Both teams shot under 30 percent combined in the 10 consecutive minutes of the second and third overtimes. But after the Pistons’ Jackson got going to start the fourth overtime after Drummond’s opening followup slam dunk, the Bulls, especially Butler, gained their second—or fourth—wind as well. After a Rose runner got the Bulls within 134-129 with 3:24 left after the biggest margin for either team in the overtimes, Butler scored on a drive, on an assist from Rose after a Rose steal, with an 18 footer on a pass from Gasol and with a pair of free throws for 10 points in about 90 seconds.

But the Bulls had little left on the other end as Jackson made a 10 footer, Caldwell-Pope a three, Marcus Morris a 15 footer and Jackson a driving layup, the Pistons all but ending it with 70 percent shooting in the fourth overtime, four of six field goals from Jackson and five of six free throws.

“I felt awake, I felt alive,” said Jackson, as winners will after this sort of game. “I wasn’t really tired, especially when we got into those late overtimes. I think just the moment takes over. I am just happy to be a part of a game like that. You just dig deep and find a way to keep the beat. I think both sides did that. I think we put on a great show tonight. It is very joyous to get this win against the conference and division rival. We know we are going to see them again. We are trying to prove ourselves night. I think we are coming out and making statements.”

One which suggests this Eastern Conference is wide open with almost no favorites other than the Cavaliers at playoff time assuming good health for everyone. The Bulls are just a game ahead of the eighth place Pistons with the 11th place Knicks in position to get to .500 with a win over the Bulls Saturday.

“Like coach said, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves,” said Taj Gibson, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds in 44 minutes. “We’ve got to bounce back tomorrow and we’re looking forward to it. It was a battle. Games like that you learn from and move on. Caldwell-Pope with that running three pointer. They made some tough shots. Both teams battled; they were fortunate in the end. It is the worst feeling right now, knowing how close you were to it; it would have been a great win. But it’s a positive for us. Derrick played well, Jimmy played well, Pau played well. Jimmy said not to worry, that there’s another one tomorrow. Coach said to get the next one. Adjust and move forward. One thing about this league. The games keep coming and no one is going to feel sorry for you.”

So way back some three and a half hours before the closing kick it was a sign of things to come, and come, and come, and come.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy is a master of exploiting matchups. While some coaches employ a system of play, Van Gundy prefers to attack the matchups with his point guard/center system. It’s the same as he used in Orlando with Dwight Howard in the pick and roll and Jameer Nelson with shooting range. Though it had to be Rafer Alston when the Magic did make the Finals in 2009 and losing to the Lakers with Pau Gasol. Nelson was hurt then and playing sporadically off the bench in the Finals. However, Jackson is a more dynamic scoring guard for this version of the Van Gundy game.

But Van Gundy will search out weaknesses in other spots as well, which is likely what kept Doug McDermott playing just 22 minutes with just three shots.

When the Pistons weren’t putting Gasol in the pick and roll, they searched out McDermott. Though McDermott has been satisfactory on defense, there was one play that made him look particularly bad when he seemed to get lost and turned around on a switch in the third quarter. After playing the entire fourth quarter against Memphis Wednesday, McDermott played fewer than four minutes through the fourth quarter and four overtimes combined.

Hoiberg apparently made the decision to go with Tony Snell for defensive reasons, and Snell did made a big three pointer for his only points of the game in 38 minutes with 51.9 seconds left in regulation for a 103-102 Bulls lead. It did come a possession after Snell dribbled the ball off his foot out of bounds for a turnover. Ersan Ilyasova tied it with one of two free throws about 20 seconds later. And then Gasol made two clutch free throws with 32 seconds left in regulation for a 105-103 Bulls lead.

It’s obvious why you don’t hear about those flopping penalties in the NBA anymore, by the way. Ilyasova seems a master and the officials fell for it with him numerous times Friday. When’s the last time anyone has heard about a fine for that, which was so much promoted a few years back? But I digress.

For the Bulls then went blank again as not so much letting Jackson drive, but when he handed off to the notoriously poor free throw shooting Drummond with 18.9 seconds left at the end of regulation the Bulls let him catch it and dunk it to tie the game. Then Rose dribbled out and missed. It was one of several occasions they could have fouled Drummond close and backed off. They can be such gentlemen.

The Pistons led 30-27 after the first quarter and then 55-52 at halftime. Though it was so long ago and so relatively insignificant given the circumstances, I enjoyed the Bulls adjustment then to a nice Pistons move. Steve Blake was in and had no chance guarding Rose, who was blowing by and then hitting Gasol with the pick and pop pass. Rose had eight assists. So what the Pistons had their defenders do was go into the passing lane for the pop back pass. So the next time, Gasol rolled and scored, the little game within the game as both coaches were working the angles.

The Bulls seemed like they were getting some control of the game after halftime with Gasol pumping his fist on a three-point play on a lob pass from Rose and Gibson taking a lob from Gasol for a three-point play. The Bulls went ahead 69-62, but that’s when the Pistons went at McDermott and closed within 77-74 after three quarters. Rose kept the Bulls ahead late in the third with scores on three straight possessions with drives and spins as Rose is averaging 26.5 points the last two games.

But the Bulls distractions on the defensive boards cost them again early in the fourth quarter as the Pistons scored three times on second chances as they had 20 second chance points in the game. That enabled Detroit to retake the lead before a big regulation close for Gasol. He had nine fourth quarter points and five of five from the free throw line and thus gave Rose that last chance for the winner.

Then it was overtime mania.

The Pistons opened the first overtime with four straight scores as they won the tip in all four overtimes. But Rose with a driving score, a pull up jumper and turnaround getting past Jackson tied the game at 113 with 1:55 left. Jackson got the last try this time after Gasol’s rolling score and missed.

The second overtime was the Bulls’ opportunity as the Pistons didn’t score their first field goal until 1:18 was left and the Bulls led 121-117. But they lost Morris and then Caldwell-Pope ran into that unlikely three in front of the Bulls bench. Butler missed twice and Hoiberg missed an opportunity for a last timeout.

Overtime three: 127-123 Bulls on a Rose jumper with 2:37 left, but Jackson and Drummond in that pick and roll scored back to back and Gasol and Jackson missed at the end.

And then, finally, it was too much Detroit too fast and too little Butler too late. It was just one of 82. But one not so easy to forget.