Luol Deng beats buzzer in OT as Bulls top Raptors
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org March 24, 2012 11:40PM
CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 24: Members of the Chicago Bulls including Carlos Boozer #5 and Taj Gibson #22 mob teammate Loul Deng #9 (R) after Deng hit the game-winning shot against the Toronto Raptors at the United Center on March 24, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Raptors 102-101 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Updated: April 26, 2012 8:27AM
The Bulls did everything but lose Saturday night.
They stumbled their way through a discouraging effort against a struggling Toronto Raptors team without guard DeMar DeRozan.
But when all appeared lost, they relied on the only thing they had left in their favor — their uncanny ability to find a way to win — and somehow turned a foiled final play into gold when Luol Deng scored at the buzzer on a rebound of a C.J. Watson blocked shot for a 102-101 overtime victory at the United Center.
‘‘I saw the light [signifying no time on the clock] after I shot it, but I still wasn’t sure how close it was,’’ Deng said. ‘‘We’re finding ways. It’s a long season … so many games. So every game is going to be a different story. We stuck with it. Toronto played great. And we just found a way to win.’’
Trailing 101-100 with 15 seconds left in overtime, the Bulls looked like they were headed for a well-deserved loss when Deng had a shot blocked by James Johnson and the Raptors’ Gary Forbes was fouled with 6.4 seconds left. But Forbes missed both free throws, giving the Bulls one final chance.
It looked like they blew it when Watson drove the lane and had his shot blocked by Johnson. But the ball deflected to Deng underneath the basket and Deng instinctively put up a shot not unlike North Carolina State’s Lorenzo Charles in the 1983 NCAA championship game to beat the buzzer and send the sellout crowd of 21,841 at the United Center into a frenzy.
Deng typified the Bulls’ gutty effort. He was 0-for-6 on three-point shots, missing four of them badly. But he scored 23 points on 10 of 24 shooting and added 10 rebounds and four assists. Watson scored 23 points on 8 of 18 shooting — including 13 points in the fourth quarter — as the Bulls rallied from an 84-77 deficit to tie the game at 94 and force overtime.
Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 24 points on 11 of 19 shooting and added 10 rebounds and four assists.
But Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, while happy to win, wasn’t celebrating. The Bulls played down to the level of the Raptors both on Wednesday in Toronto and at home Saturday night.
‘‘[The Raptors] deserved it, They were playing a lot harder than we were,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘I have a problem with the way we played. It’s everybody. It starts with me. I have to do a better job of having them ready. Right now we’re heading down the stretch, it’s about building the right habits. Improving. And we haven’t done that in the last two games. So we have to change that fast. Things change quickly in this league.’’
The Bulls trailed 84-77 midway through the fourth quarter before C.J. Watson scored 13 of the Bulls’ next 15 points, making 1 of 2 free throws to tie the game at 94 with 32 seconds left. The Raptors missed three shots in the final 15 seconds of regulation, including Andrea Bargnani’s three-pointer at the buzzer.
The Bulls played the second half without Joakim Noah, who was ejected in the second quarter after getting two technical fouls for arguing a foul called on him.
The Bulls fumbled their way from the outset against the Raptors, who were playing the second of back-to-back road games and were without DeRozan, who suffered an ankle injury in a victory over the Knicks on Friday night. They were out of sync offensively and allowed the Raptors to drive the baseline and the lane to score a season-high 30 points in the first quarter to take a 10-point lead.
The Raptors had not won back-to-back games since Jan. 24-25. The Bulls, who lead the league in rebound differential and had out rebounded their last seven opponents by an average of 12.4 rebounds, were beaten 58-44 on the boards.