Pau Gasol scored a season-high 29 points vs. Dallas
Bill Smith/Chicago Bulls

Bulls lose to Mavs in double overtime thriller

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By Sam Smith | 12.3.2014 | 3:16 a.m. CT

The final result Tuesday, a 132-129 Dallas Mavericks double overtime win over the Bulls, wasn’t exactly the presentation the Bulls or the United Center fans preferred. But on a cold early winter’s evening in a season bound for perhaps somewhere, this game was a gift that wasn’t about to let anyone sleep.

It had aces, like Derrick Rose’s banked in three pointer to send the game into double overtime, and jokers like Kirk Hirnich’s foul at the end of regulation that enabled Monta Ellis to tie the game with 1.2 seconds left with three free throws. It was a game in which Ellis scored 38 points on 16 of 35 shooting, Pau Gasol churned through 50 minutes for 29 points and 14 rebounds, Jimmy Butler added 23 points, and a Rose three with 1:41 left for a 105-100 lead in regulation looked like it might be enough to rally from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit. But then some rainbows from the inimitable Dirk Nowitzki in the first overtime and a last dagger three from Ellis with 39.9 seconds in the second overtime proved just enough of a successful gamble for high scoring guys from Texas.

“We fought back,” agreed Rose, who had 18 points and 10 assists but seven turnovers. “We didn’t win the game, but we showed fight and this is not the end. It was fun playing against them. They’re a great team. Every time we went up we felt like we had the game, but they always made adjustments and they played to the end. They just got the best of us tonight.”

The Bulls fell to 11-7, though 2-4 at home, while the Mavs are 14-5.

It was one of those games perhaps a team looks back on for so many opportunities to win, a play here, a stop there, like pulling your hand back from the fire. If only you’d thought a bit more quickly you wouldn’t have gotten burned.

This time it turned out to be one of the Bulls’ savviest veterans, Hinrich, with one of those moments he just could not believe.

“I messed it up,” acknowledged Hinrich of his last second miscue. “It was a bonehead play. I’ve been in the league 12 years. I know better than that. It was a bad decision, just a bad play. You can’t do that against a good team like that. Disappointed because I felt like we played a good game to that point to get back in position to win and to make a play like that; it was a bad decision, no question. I will just have to learn from it. It’s on me.”

Technically, but not realistically. No game, especially not one with 20 ties and 14 lead changes, rests with one moment, even if Hinrich will be counting fouls in his sleep, watching his hand move inevitably where he knows it cannot be.

That was grabbing Ellis with just over a second left in regulation and the Bulls leading by three points. The Mavericks had to inbound the ball with no timeouts with 4.5 seconds left. The obvious play was to foul immediately. Don’t let a team that would shoot 15 of 30 on threes get off a shot to tie. But the Bulls missed the elfin Ellis in the backcourt. With the instructions to foul, it now was too late. Hinrich caught up to Ellis above the three-point line as “foul” quickly became “Nooooo.” You don’t get away with that one in the NBA. Ellis wasn’t exactly shooting at the time, though with 35 shots there weren’t many moments when he wasn’t. But after he was hit he lurched toward the basket and the foul was called.

Ellis swished all three free throws with barely a ripple, other than in the crowd, with Joakim Noah at the sideline urging the home fans into a frenzy. To no avail.

“That, to me, was my fault,” said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. “We wanted to take the foul and I was not clear enough about how and where. Obviously, we wanted to take it in the backcourt; they were out of timeouts. It gets tricky when they get into the scoring area if a guy is facing you. So that was my fault.”

Hinrich said Thibodeau repeated that to the team after the game, but Hinrich was having none of it. He said he had to know better.

But the disappointment would turn into an appetizing 10 minutes of extra basketball time with first Nowitzki with spin moves and his infamous high arcing jumper giving the Mavs a lead and Ellis seeming to clinch it by putting back his own miss for a 121-118 lead with 40.9 seconds left in the first overtime. Gasol then was stuffed by Tyson Chandler, who had five points and 14 rebounds. But the Bulls took a chance not fouling and Ellis missed with 7.9 seconds left. The Bulls had been going to Butler out of timeouts and late game foul situations. But the Mavs were doing a good job helping on him. Butler found Rose on top for a long three that looked long. And then banked and went in to tie the game at 121 with a tenth of a second left in the first overtime. Wow!

“I wasn’t trying to bank it,” said Rose. “I thought it was going to go right in, but it hit glass first.”

It was one of four threes in 11 attempts for Rose in a curious game in which he wasn’t driving to the basket but, especially late, was working the pick and roll with crucial passes to Gasol for jumpers in both overtimes.

“I’m mad we ran it late (with Pau),” said Rose. “Hopefully, next game we’ll get it going a little earlier. I take what they give me and tonight there wasn’t that many opportunities to attack the basket.”

It remains unclear with Rose, whose game has been to attack the rim. The focus of late has been to play no matter the circumstances, so Rose has been pushing through with his tender hamstring. He played just under 37 minutes along with Noah while Gasol played just over 50. With the second of the back to back in Charlotte Wednesday, the question was whether Rose and Noah would or should play. Though with Taj Gibson still out and Gasol with 50-plus minutes it seems Noah certainly would continue on even as he had to sit out a game on the road trip.

“I don’t see why not,” Thibodeau responded when asked if Rose and Noah would play Wednesday. “We’ll see how they feel tomorrow.”

Noah also rolled his ankle during Tuesday’s game, though he returned to play and finished with eight points, 14 rebounds and six assists.

“He said he felt fine,” said Thibodeau.

“Oh yeah, that’s what I’m planning on,” Rose added when asked if he’d play Wednesday. “But tomorrow we’ll have to see how it goes. I’m not thinking about (Denver sitting out the second half on a back to back). Depending on how I’m feeling tomorrow; listen to my body. Like I said, be smart. Still in the fourth not taking over like I wanted to, but I know it’s going to be there soon.”

The Bulls fell behind quickly in the second overtime, a pattern throughout the game after the Mavs hit them with a 14-0 early second quarter run after Noah got in foul trouble and the Bulls were trying to come back the rest of the game.

The Bulls got good efforts from Mike Dunleavy with 20 points, including 12 points in the third quarter when the Bulls rallied back. Nikola Mirotic added 15 points and was seven for eight from the free throw line as he did good work when paired with Noah.

The Bulls still trailed 59-47 at halftime, tied it midway through the third but quickly fell behind again by double digits and 80-74 heading into the fourth quarter. The guard oriented Mavs with a relentless drive and kick game lead the league in scoring and are second in shooting. Chandler Parsons had 24 and Devin Harris off the bench surprised with 20 and six of six on threes.

The Mavs did an excellent job of exploiting the Bulls soft spots on defense as they targeted Gasol in pick and roll. Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is regarded as one of the league’s better tacticians to seek out favorable matchups and knows Gasol doesn’t react out as quickly on pick and roll. So the Mavs constantly went at Gasol, who understandably was also wary of giving Tyson Chandler a free run at second shots. The Bulls guards were getting caught up on screens, forcing switches that gave Nowitzki shooting advantages and enabled Ellis to get into the lane against a slower big man and the Mavs quick guards able to pitch out for threes.

“They are the top scoring team in the league for a reason,” noted Gasol. “It’s not an easy task. (Ellis was) very aggressive. He took 35 shots, which is impressive. He stayed aggressive and made a lot of tough shots. We should have been more aggressive with him off the pick and rolls. I was concerned with Tyson; he gets a lot of easy layups and putbacks, so maybe I should have stepped up to Monta a little more. We were fighting and gave ourselves a chance. It would have felt better if we’d have won.”

The Bulls would finally tie the game on an Aaron Brooks fast break score with 5:19 left in regulation and suddenly rose up with their defense after chasing Mavs shooters from behind all game. Rose and Gasol worked that pick and pop to perfection and Butler drew fouls, the Bulls taking a 102-96 lead with 2:42 left and then 105-100 on that Rose three with 1:41 left that looked like the clincher.

But Nowitzki, inexplicably, got wide open for a three before the Mavs went into fouling mode. Gasol made two, but Butler split a pair before Hinrich’s gaffe enabled the Mavs to send the game into overtime.

“For a 7-1 guy there’s never been a guy (like Nowitzki) who can shoot the ball virtually anywhere,” said Carlisle. “He’s the best shooter I’ve ever seen for a guy that size and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better shooter, period (despite playing with Larry Bird and coaching Reggie Miller). I’m talking about the best of the best. That’s why these guys (like Nowitzki) are generational type players. We’ll never see a guy quite like this ever again.”

In that second overtime, it would be a brutal start for the Bulls with three turnovers in their first four possessions, two by Rose and one from Noah around a Gasol miss. So again the Mavs were ahead by four. But Gasol scored three straight baskets on the way to his season high and Rose hit Noah for a slam dunk on a beautiful pick and roll play for a 129-127 Bulls lead with a minute left in the second overtime.

But Ellis with the shot clock about to expire fired a three in from 28 feet for a 130-129 Mavs lead with 39.9 seconds left. Rose had a floater go all the way around the rim and out with 24.9 seconds left. The Bulls had to foul and Parsons made two. Rose got one last chance with the Bulls getting the ball with 8.7 seconds remaining. But his three to tie again came up short.

“I stumbled a little bit,” explained Rose. “I didn’t like the way he ran out on me. I thought he was going to swipe, but he ran past me a little and I reacted the wrong way.”

And so it was a curiosity as the Bulls a year to the day, Dec. 2, 2013, lost a triple overtime game in similar fashion to the New Orleans Pelicans. Though then without Rose as he still works on his return.

“He has to work his way through things,” said Thibodeau of Rose. “ He had some good plays, some tough plays. You have to give them credit. We got disjointed in the second quarter with Jo’s foul trouble and Taj not playing. I thought the guys fought back. In the second quarter, we got in the big hole and we dug out of it. We put ourselves in a position to win. We didn’t close out. The more (Rose) plays, the better his conditioning will be and that will help. You have to remember he is reading defenses, getting used to new teammates; there’s a lot going on. He’s just got to keep grinding away and moving forward.”

Which will be the story of the Bulls this regular season. No time to fold them or walk away. Because this hand still could be a winner.

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