The Magic entered Wednesday night's game against the Bulls losers of eight games in a row, with their last six losses coming by an average of 19.5 points. And with Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic sidelined, it seemed like a good game for the Bulls to get a little confidence back after a poor effort against the Wizards on Monday night.
Things didn't exactly play out as easy as hoped, with the Bulls and Magic engaging in an absurd triple-overtime affair that seemingly went on forever. This is the first time in franchise history the Bulls have gone to three overtimes in two games in a season, but unlike the last one against the Pelicans, Chicago came out victorious. Tony Snell capped off an excellent performance off the bench with what turned out to be the game-winning jumper late in the third overtime, helping the Bulls nab a 128-125 victory.
The Bulls actually trailed by 15 midway through the third quarter thanks to the exploits of Victor Oladipo and backcourt mate Jameer Nelson, but they fought back with some real-life offensive execution in the fourth quarter, going up by four on a D.J. Augustin three with just over a minute left. However, the game went to overtime after Nelson knocked down a tough jumper to tie the game and the Bulls couldn't get a good look on the other end.
The Bulls' offense appeared to run out of magic in the first overtime, as a string of turnovers and missed open threes had the Magic on the verge of a victory. But with the Bulls down three in the waning moments, Tom Thibodeau drew up a nice play for Mike Dunleavy, who knocked down a triple to tie the game and send it to double-overtime.
The Bulls never trailed in the second overtime, and after a Joakim Noah tap-in put the Bulls up three with just under a minute left, it looked like perhaps they would pull it out right then and there. Then Glen Davis, a possession after bricking a potential game-tying three, somehow knocked down a three in Noah's grill to send the game to a third overtime before the Bulls finally secured the win.
Noah was a monster all game, recording 26 points, 19 rebounds (seven offensive) and six assists in 49 minutes. Noah came up with a key block of Oladipo in the third overtime to help maintain a one-point lead in the final minute, while also blocking a desperation three by E'Twaun Moore as time expired.
There were countless other notable performances. Snell finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes, with two of his points coming on a MONSTER dunk:
Augustin had 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds in 40 minutes. Jimmy Butler struggled with his shot yet again (6-of-17 overall and 2-of-9 from three), but he filled the stat sheet with 21 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks (including a big one of a Davis three late in the third overtime) ... in a whopping 60 minutes. Yes, Jimmy Butler played a full hour of game time tonight, not seeing the bench for a single second in the second half and throughout all the overtimes. Some facts:
Jimmy Butler has now set a regular season franchise record for the Bulls with 60 minutes played.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) January 16, 2014
Jimmy Butler's 60:20 played is the most by any NBA player since Jalen Rose played 61 for the Pacers against the Rockets in March 2001.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) January 16, 2014
And oh yeah, Carlos Boozer had 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting despite feeling a bit under the weather, but he was glued to the bench down the stretch. Thibs almost exclusively rolled with a lineup of Augustin, Snell, Butler, Noah and Taj Gibson from the fourth quarter on, inserting Dunleavy and Kirk Hinrich on select occasions. It was that unit that got the Bulls back in the game in the fourth quarter, with Augustin and Snell providing a huge spark on the perimeter. Augustin really pushed the pace and effectively probed the defense off the dribble, creating a bunch of good looks for himself and others.
A bunch of those good looks were of the three-point variety, and Augustin and Snell each went 2-of-3 from deep in the fourth quarter. The Bulls had started extremely cold from long range, making just one of their first 12 three-point attempts. Things started to heat up at the end of the third quarter, and that continued into the fourth. For the game, the Bulls shot a whopping 33 threes, and while they "only" made 12 for a 36.4 percent clip, seeing them shoot that many threes was great to see.
In the early going, it appeared the Bulls were going to meet little resistance on the way to a big victory. The Bulls used their tremendous size advantage to build a 10-point lead, with Boozer and Noah doing the bulk of the work against the undersized duo of Davis and Tobias Harris. On the other end, the Magic were content to jack up inefficient jumpers, which the Bulls were more than willing to allow.
But then the Magic picked up the pace a bit and became more aggressive going to the basket. Oladipo just about single-handedly kept the Magic in the game, showing a bit of everything on both sides of the floor. Nelson closed the half with a flourish, giving the Magic a 49-46 lead at the break.
The Magic then came out and went bonkers at the outset of the second half, making their first eight shots and opening up their game-high 15-point lead. The Bulls' defense certainly wasn't very good during this stretch, but the Magic hit some pretty crazy shots as well (Big Baby off-balanced jumper at the end of the clock? C'mon!). The Bulls were able to cut into that deficit by the end of the quarter thanks to Boozer and some much-needed three-point shooting, setting up the crazy final 27 minutes.
Now that I've said all that, I really have to talk more about how impressive Oladipo was. The No. 2 pick had 35 points and eight assists while shooting 15-of-24 from the field in 57 minutes, and he repeatedly schooled Butler in iso situations. We all know how good of a defender Butler is, so that really was something to behold. Oladipo did commit eight turnovers and petered out at the end of the game, but it was still probably his best performance of his young NBA career. It was really fun to watch.
Nelson also had a noteworthy performance, tallying 31 points, 10 assists and six rebounds. Nelson wasn't nearly as efficient as Oladipo, going just 13-of-30 and 3-of-13 from deep, but he put a ton of pressure on the Bulls' defense all night. The Magic actually shot 51.0 percent for the game, which certainly won't please Thibs.
All in all, obviously quite the game. Now just pray Jimmy Butler's legs don't fall off.