The Chicago Bulls blew opportunity after opportunity to put Boston away and looked like they were going to lose in both regulation and overtime, but clutch shots by Kirk Hinrich and Marco Belinelli lifted Chicago over Boston in the most exciting finish of the season.
Chicago maintained a small lead for the majority of the night largely vacillating between one and eight points. However, Boston closed out on Chicago at the end of the game, and the Bulls missed opportunity after opportunity. Poor free throw shooting in the clutch hurt them as well as they repeatedly split free throws rather than knocking down a pair.
With a three deficit, the Bulls had the ball with 20 seconds left on the clock. Kirk Hinrich looked to take Rondo off the dribble and Rajon gave him an intentional foul to put him on the line for two free throws with 12 seconds to go. Kirk split the free throws, and it looked like things were over for Chicago.
However, Joakim Noah forced a jump ball with Paul Pierce instead of a foul. He won the tap to Belinelli who dribbled out of control in the paint and lost the ball which happened to roll over to a wide open Kirk Hinrich who knocked down the mid range jumper to tie up the game.
The teams went back and forth in overtime where Chicago again split free throws to give Boston an edge. With Chicago up one, the Bulls had the ball with a shade over 40 seconds on the clock setting up a classic two for one with the lead. An incredibly strong position to close out the game.
In the first attempt, Marco Belinelli frustratingly dribbled for about 15 seconds before dribbling into a trap and heaving a horrible looking turn around three while contested by two Celtics. Carlos Boozer had the offensive rebound knocked out of his hands, and the Celtics took control with 20 seconds left, down by one.
The Celtics ran a Pierce/Terry pick and roll and Jimmy Butler and Marquis Teague were confused for a second on who was defending who. With the delay, Terry got a wide open look at a 15 footer which he knocked down to put the Celtics up one with 12 seconds to go.
Chicago looked like they had nothing going whatsoever on their final possession. Joakim Noah was trapped with the ball outside the three point line. He eventually got the ball to Boozer who was heavily covered far out from the basket and tried to dump the ball off to Belinelli in the post. Belinelli lost the ball on the pass, but picked it up while turning around and falling backwards heaved up a eight footer which splashed through the net.
The Celtics had three seconds left but with no timeouts settled for a heave at a three point shot which missed, and Chicago escaped with a win.
Luol Deng reinjures Hamstring
Deng injured his hamstring against the Raptors and attempted to play through it. While driving through the lane on a breakaway, Deng pulled up in obvious pain. It seems unlikely that Deng will go tonight against Memphis, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's out for awhile.
For the third time this season, the Bulls will go for their fourth consecutive win. With Deng likely out for the game, the Bulls will be in tough shape against the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have struggled recently, dropping three of their last four, but all three losses came to quality opponents (Mavs, Clippers, Spurs).
That said, all three losses were also by 20+ points. Zach Randolph may miss the game for the Grizzlies with a sore back. He skipped last night's game against the Kings, and if he's limited or unable to go, it will ease the pressure on the Bulls frontcourt, in particular, Carlos Boozer.
The Grizzlies play excellent team basketball and spread the ball around, scoring from all five spots on the court. The Bulls frequently struggle with these types of opponents as their defense does well against pressuring star players.
I'm not optimistic that the Bulls will make it four in a row tonight.
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