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Bulls fall in triple overtime to Pelicans, 131-128

CHICAGO IL - DECEMBER 02: Tyreke Evans #1 New Orleans Pelicans puts up shot between Taj Gibs#22 Loul Deng #9

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 02: Tyreke Evans #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans puts up a shot between Taj Gibson #22 and Loul Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 2, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. 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)

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Updated: December 3, 2013 11:41AM

As much as the Bulls want to talk about fight and not giving up after their triple-overtime loss Monday night, they were definitely a team that was still bleeding.

Six losses in their last seven games and minus a superstar in Derrick Rose for the rest of the season? They’re bleeding all right.

And that means one thing.

A team such as the New Orleans Pelicans can waltz into the United Center and walk out with a 131-128 victory.

“In this league, you start feeling bad for yourself, and the wolves come,’’ backup big man Taj Gibson said. “The wolves aren’t going to feel sorry for you. Every team is going to come in smelling blood and feel like they need to get a win.

“Luckily for us, we have guys that understand if you have your backs against the wall, you’ve got to dig your way out of the hole. Can’t make excuses. We’re still optimistic.’’

Maybe so, but the optimism has to be fading.

The loss dropped the Bulls to 7-9 and offset a career-high 56-minute performance from forward Luol Deng in which he scored a season-high 37 points. They have Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday to thank for that.

With the game tied and 4.5 seconds left in the third overtime, Holiday started near the halfcourt line, with several Bulls admittedly thinking he wasn’t part of the last-second play. But a screen by Ryan Anderson freed Holiday from Kirk Hinrich, and after catching the inbound pass in stride, he attacked the hoop unguarded, not only making the basket but drawing the foul on Gibson for a three-point play.

Game, set and match.

Pelicans coach Monty Williams would like to take credit for the play, but he couldn’t.

“Jrue just makes the play; I’m not that bright,’’ Williams said. “Sometimes I try and outthink myself. He just made a play. I’d like to tell you I’m that bright, but I’m not. We draw it up for a certain thing to happen, but he just made a great play.

“We ran it one time in Portland, and it didn’t look that open, so you never know. End-of-game plays are the hardest things to run in the NBA because the defenses are so good, but you have to have big-time players for that.’’

Something the Bulls are still looking for late in games.

“I thought we played plenty hard enough,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It was a tough one to lose. The team right now, we’re showing a lot of fight, and we don’t have much to show for it. So we’ve got to keep grinding. If we do that, the results will be better.’’

With perimeter defense still a problem, getting healthy couldn’t hurt. Shooting guard Jimmy Butler (turf toe) could help in that department. And while Butler shot around a bit Monday afternoon, there’s still no timetable for his return.

“I’m just concerned that Jimmy has been out a long time,’’ Thibodeau said. “When you miss a lot of time, it’s hard to come back.’’

Until Butler can get back, the Bulls will have to continue finding some sort of chemistry short-handed.

“You got to keep going,’’ Gibson said. “It was a grind game. It was who could make the tough shots, and they sure did.

“But we have guys that won’t quit. We have to find a way to squeak these out. We just have to work our way out of it. You can’t sit back and whine about it.’’


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