Denton: Oladipo Scores 35 in Instant Classic

By John Denton
Jan. 15, 2014

ORLANDO – In a game that featured more drama and emotional swings than a daytime soap opera, the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls traded body blows, jabs and haymakers for more than three hours on Wednesday night.

Two teams absolutely desperate for a victory exchanged dramatic tying shots at the end of regulation, the first overtime and the second OT. And in between those dagger shots, the Magic and Bulls played what will go down as one of the all-time classics in the 25-year history of the Magic organization.

Orlando blew out to a big lead in the second half and then needed clutch tying shots from veterans Jameer Nelson and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis at the end of regulation and the second overtime to extend the game into a third OT period. Unfortunately for the Magic, they saw a late one-point lead disappear when Tony Snell hit a leaning jumper with 48.6 seconds remaining.

Davis had a potential winning 3-point shot tipped and the Magic were forced to stomach the sour feelings from a 128-125 triple-overtime loss to the Bulls.

``I was more mad than exhausted, I’m not going to lie to you,’’ said Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, who became the first Magic rookie in franchise history to have 35 points and eight rebounds in a game. ``I’m more mad than exhausted right now. But it’s a short turnaround so I have to have a short-term memory.’’

An Amway Center crowd of 16,489 witnessed just the fourth triple-overtime game in the Magic’s 25-year history. The last time Orlando ventured into triple overtime it was Feb. 27, 1998. This game left Orlando 0-4 in overtime games this season. But this one was unlike any of the others because of the sheer drama produced at nearly every turn by the two teams.

The loss left the hard-luck Magic (10-29) with a nine-game losing streak. Orlando led by 15 in the third quarter and by three points in the final seconds of the first overtime, but they couldn’t put away the Bulls (18-19).

``It’s really tough for us to go to that many overtimes and not pull it out,’’ said Magic forward Tobias Harris, who had 22 points and 16 rebounds in 43 minutes. ``But it just goes to show what coach has been preaching that to win games all of the little things count. Whether it be a missed rebound or a missed free throw or a missed assignment defensively, all of those things add up. So for us, it’s a good learning step, but we also have to know that all of the little things in a game count.’’

Oladipo, Orlando’s prized No. 2 pick from last June’s NBA Draft, played 57 minutes and 11 seconds, falling just short of the franchise record of 58 minutes played by Horace Grant in 1998. In the end, he was more frustrated by his eight turnovers than excited about his 15 of 24 shooting and eight assists.

``I know that I could have taken care of the ball a little better and been more aggressive down the stretch,’’ said Oladipo, who was just one for five in the three overtimes for two points. ``It’s really tough not to win because we came ready to play. Guys played hard and played defense and we just came up short. So back to the drawing board.’’

Nelson scored 31 points and handed out 10 assists and drilled the tying shot at the end of regulation to force overtime. Davis scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 47 minutes and his biggest moment of the night came when he buried a straight-on 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left in the second OT to knot the game at 119.

Davis’ 3-pointer was tipped by Snell with nine seconds remaining in the third overtime, leaving the Magic only with the hollow feelings from a game they poured so much in to.

``We talked about validation with winning and losing. You feel for the guys and you want them to get a victory underneath them, but we got better tonight,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. ``The last time we were in a situation going down the stretch we didn’t come out victors. Tonight, the same result, but there were a lot of good things and a lot of positives along the way.’’

Chicago’s Joakim Noah scored 26 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked E’Twaun Moore’s final heave at the third-overtime buzzer. Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, who struggled most of the night trying to guard Oladipo, set a Chicago franchise record by playing 60 minutes. He had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

``We had to win it a couple of times,’’ Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. ``It was a hard-fought game. They played a great game. We were back on our heels, but then we had a lot of guys step up.’’

The final seconds of regulation, the first overtime and the second overtime featured some jaw-dropping, dramatic shots on both sides.

It was the Magic’s turn to hit a dagger of a shot at the end of the second overtime when Davis drilled a straight-on 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds remaining. Davis had just missed a shot seconds earlier with the Magic trailing 119-116. The shot was reminiscent of the tying 3-pointer that Davis made in December to force an extra period of a two-overtime loss in Philadelphia. The emotional moment also ended up Davis dancing up the court while yelling to the cheering crowd.

``Everybody on this team wants to win and different guys on the team have different ways of expressing it. Glen got excited and he hit a really big shot for us,’’ Harris said. ``It’s just passion. To play this game of basketball, you have to have passion for your team and for yourself out there.’’

Chicago rallied in the first overtime with a clutch shot of its own. Thibodeau drew up a play out of a timeout where Mike Dunleavy rubbed Oladipo off a screen. He then drilled an open 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds left to tie the game at 111-all.

With a chance to win it, the Magic struggled to get into their offense. And when Nelson did finally get off a shot – one that went in – it came well after the horn and was waived off.

Nelson showed off his veteran moxie late in regulation with the Magic needing a basket. Down 101-99, Orlando put the ball in Nelson’s hands, got Joakim Noah switched onto him and the veteran point guard drilled a high-arching jumper that tied it with 11.2 seconds remaining.

``A game like that, it’s fun. It’s fun,’’ said Nelson, whose hamstrings started cramping up late in the night after playing 54 minutes. ``Basketball is something that is obviously our jobs, but if we weren’t playing here we’d be playing somewhere else and competing as hard as we did tonight. I believe in each and every guy in this locker room that when they step on that floor that they’re going to give it their all.’’

The Magic were once again without starters Nikola Vucevic (concussion) and Arron Afflalo (strained foot). Vucevic suffered a head-first fall last Monday in Los Angeles and there is no timetable for his return as he is subject to the NBA’s concussion protocol. Afflalo, out three straight games, was hopeful of playing on Wednesday, but he was held out following a workout on Tuesday.

Chicago is still getting used to life without star point guard Derrick Rose, who made the trip with the Bulls despite being ruled out for the season following a second knee surgery. The Bulls came into Wednesday’s game 3-1 since trading away the contract of Luol Deng.

Wednesday’s home game was Orlando’s first at home following a road trip that covered all or parts of 10 days and saw the Magic go winless in five games. The Magic are back at home on Friday and Sunday when they will face the Charlotte Bobcats and then the Boston Celtics.

Up three at the half, Orlando rode Oladipo’s hot hand in the third quarter and pushed their lead to an-almost-too-good-to-be-true 15 points. Orlando also got a nice lift off the bench from reserve center Kyle O’Quinn, who had 10 points and five three rebounds through the first three quarters of the game.

``One thing about Vic, he’s faster than a hiccup, man,’’ Nelson said. ``Did you see how fast he got to that basket? As soon as you blink, he’s gone. He just takes advantage of the seams and he’s recognizing what’s going on and how teams are playing him. He just has to stay in attack mode.’’

The Bulls turned the game around with the way that they close the third quarter. Chicago outscored Orlando 18-10 over the final 5 minutes of the third period to pull within 80-73 by the start of the fourth.

And the Bulls would take the lead early in the fourth quarter when Joakim Noah capped a 13-6 run with a three-point play. After the Bulls tied the game at 84, the two teams trade the lead eight times over the next 4 minutes.

Oladipo said that while Wednesday’s loss hurt and will undoubtedly be with the team for several days, it would eventually make the Magic better in the long run. There will come a time in the future, Oladipo predicted, when Orlando will be in a similar overtime situation and they will thrive because of what took place on an unforgettable Wednesday night against the Bulls.

``There’s no question, we’ll be better,’’ Oladipo said. ``I’ve just got to be consistent and play with the same mindset and same confidence. I have to believe in myself and my teammates.’’