Pelicans.com postgame: Pelicans 131, Bulls 128 (3OT)
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
CHICAGO - “What time is it, 1 a.m.?”
An incredulous but smiling Ryan Anderson sat in the New Orleans postgame locker room and wondered if media members knew how long the Pelicans and Chicago Bulls had just battled on the United Center hardwood Monday. The short answer was 63 minutes of basketball, encompassing three overtimes in the longest NBA regular season game played in recent memory. No one could blame the Pelicans power forward for having no idea what a nearby clock read as he and his exhausted teammates soaked their feet in ice. It was 10:50 p.m. Central time, a few minutes after Anderson and the Pelicans outlasted the Bulls, capping a 3-0 East road trip for the visitors.
In an exciting, dramatic and mentally exhausting affair – one of just three triple-OT contests in New Orleans’ 26-year history and the first since 2004 – the Pelicans (9-8) finally bested the Bulls (7-9). Measured in real time, it took three hours and 16 minutes for New Orleans to come away victorious in one of the franchise’s most memorable games.
A night filled with plot twists and turns, big shots and highlight plays came to a fitting conclusion when Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday converted a conventional three-point play with 2.5 seconds remaining in the third extra session. Holiday took an inbounds pass on the move and dribbled through the middle of the Bulls’ defense, slamming into Taj Gibson under the rim (pictured at right) but still making the lay-in. Chicago’s Mike Dunleavy had a chance to force a fourth OT period, but his three-point attempt from the right wing bounced off the rim.
The Pelicans won despite playing in their first game without Anthony Davis (fractured left hand). Anderson was shifted into a starting role and responded with a career-best 36 points on 12-for-20 shooting. He also drained seven three-pointers, one shy of his most as a pro.
“I’m not sure that I have ever played in one like this and I know I haven’t coached one like that,” Pelicans fourth-year sideline leader Monty Williams said. “We just put our heart and soul into a game like this and it takes a lot out of you. I’m proud of how we came back and won this one, particularly without AD and (backup center) Greg (Stiemsma, out with a knee injury). This win was really about the heart and character of the guys in the locker room.”
Both teams displayed tremendous resiliency as they traded big shots and momentum swings during the final moments of regulation and all three OT periods. In the fourth quarter and in every extra session, there was a game-tying or go-ahead basket made in the final 10 seconds, an unlikely string of heroics in the clutch.
At the end of regulation, Holiday sank an 18-footer jumper with 3.9 seconds left to tie it at 103. With 10 seconds to go in the first OT, fellow New Orleans starting guard Eric Gordon nailed a three-pointer from the left wing to create a 109-all deadlock. Chicago’s Luol Deng had a game-tying layup at 4.7 seconds of the second OT, while Bulls teammate Joakim Noah dropped in a short left-handed hook shot to make it 128-all with 4.5 seconds remaining in the third OT, setting up Holiday’s game-winning drive.
On the Chicago side, Gibson used similar words as Williams to describe what took place in the first of two Pelicans-Bulls matchups this season. The second is Feb. 1 in New Orleans.
“It hurts,” Gibson said. “We put so much into this, guys were putting their hearts and souls into the game, really going after it. Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your way no matter how you go after it. You just have to keep pushing, learn from this game and we’ll see them next time in New Orleans.”
With Davis unavailable for a to-be-determined amount of time, the Pelicans received much-needed across-the-board contributions, including six players reaching double figures in scoring, led by Anderson’s 36 points. In his second fantastic performance in as many nights, the 6-foot-10 power forward was again accurate from beyond the three-point arc, having gone 13-for-18 from there in the New York and Chicago games. Gordon was next Monday with 23 points, including numerous key scores in the fourth quarter and first OT. Holiday posted 19 points and 12 assists.
“I’ve played on teams where in games like this, teams fold, maybe if they see some kind of pressure at the end of games,” said Anderson, who logged a career-most 56 minutes. “It feels great the past two games that we haven’t. This team is really good. When we play the right way, we can be really, really good. Tonight showed that. We may not have (always) made the best plays, but we had a ton of heart.”
“I just wanted the game to be over, to be honest,” Holiday said, when asked about his game-winning play. “We played what, three overtimes? I thought we had some calls (earlier in overtime) that didn’t go our way, but we had the chance to finally close it out.”