Conventional wisdom suggested Bulls vs. Pelicans offered little in the way of entertainment value with injuries to Chicago-bred superstars Derrick Rose and Anthony Davis, but some time during the second quarter, in between some peerless offensive post work from Taj Gibson and another swished three-pointer by Ryan Anderson, something resembling a fun little basketball game broke out. Fast-forward three overtimes later and what we were left with was one of the wildest games of the young NBA season, full of momentum swings, lead changes, and moments of both triumph and defeat. The Bulls simply ran out of gas and broke down defensively at the end, and the Pelicans earned a 131-128 win in the first home game since the end of that fateful Circus Trip.
There's almost too much here to recap the events that transpired, but it's safe to say the Bulls had plenty of chances. Their final one came on a three-pointer attempt by Mike Dunleavy at the end of triple-OT that bounced off the rim. Blown opportunities at the buzzer were one of the major themes of the night for the Bulls, but the fact that they kept coming back makes this a game that's hard to be upset over. Now that Rose is out and the season is effectively over, I'm 100 percent fine with goofy games like this one. For Chicago sports fans, it was hard not to draw parallels to the Bears-Vikings game on Sunday that also went into overtime and was equally wacky.
The Bulls had two ugly attempts at game-winners before triple-OT, one in regulation and one in the first overtime. Deng found himself with the ball in his hands both times, but was unable to get off a decent attempt. The Bulls came back after the Pelicans grabbed an early lead in double overtime after an offensive foul by Anderson late in the period on an elbow to Hinrich's head that gave the Bulls another opportunity to tie the game. Kirk Hinrich missed his eighth three-pointer without a make on the ensuing possession, but fortunately the Pelicans touched the ball last and Deng forced triple-overtime with a tough layup at the rim over Jason Smith.
It was that kind of night.
Deng continued his strong play for the Bulls without Rose, and it's getting to point that imagining this team without him is bordering on the unthinkable. Whether this recent hot streak is upping Deng's trade value, getting the Bulls to budge on an extension or is merely an aberration, it's sure been great to watch given the Bulls' morbid circumstances. Deng finished with 37 points, eight rebounds and seven assists on on 15-of-27 shooting in 56 (!!) minutes of play. He was able to get to the lane at will and made seven of his 11 free throw attempts, many of which provided crucial points to keep the Bulls in it. Basically, Deng is the people's champ and should be revered here forever. I hope his legs don't fall off after what happened tonight.
Gibson was a revelation again, continuing what's becoming his best season as a pro. Gibson had a career-high 26 points to go along with 14 rebounds and five blocks on 10-of-19 shooting. He was an agile beast and a true joy to watch. During one stretch late in the first overtime, Gibson blocked an Eric Gordon three, challenged his next shot, recovered to the paint where he challenge another shot at the rim before Gordon eventually missed another three to end the possession. It was the perfect encapsulation of Gibson's presence defensively, but his offensive growth is what's really exciting.
The minute totals for this game are just out of control on the Bulls's side . Aside from Deng's 56 minutes, Kirk Hinrich went for 53, Noah went for 50, Dunleavy went for 48 and Gibson went for 44. The pair of three-pointers Tony Snell hit in the first half (before barely playing at all in the second) seem like they happened in another game.
I'm also legally obligated to note Hinrich finished the night 0-for-8 from three, but did add 11 assists. Hinrich also had a defensive breakdown on Jrue Holiday's game-deciding layup that pretty much cost the Bulls the game, though the help defense wasn't there either.
For the Pelicans, Ryan Anderson was basically a combination of Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki. The Bulls abused him defensively when they had the ball, but Anderson provided much of the Pelicans' offense, going off for 36 points including 7-of-11 shooting from three-point range.
The loss drops the Bulls to 7-9, while the Pelicans move to 9-8.