The Bulls overcame a 14-point deficit with three minutes remaining in regulation and hung on through three overtime periods despite two key players fouling out to defeat the Nets 142-134 at the United Center on Saturday.
Where to even begin with this one?
Late in the fourth quarter is probably the best place to start. With Brooklyn leading 109-95, Bulls guard Nate Robinson ripped off 12 straight points in 103 seconds, standing as the only player on either team to score during that stretch. A bucket from Carlos Boozer, set up by a no-look Robinson pass, and another from Joakim Noah forced the game to extra time, where the action really picked up.
Neither team opened up more than a three-point lead in the first overtime period and Joe Johnson tied the score with 11 seconds by hitting a jumper. Robinson came right back down to the other end, hitting a crazy, running, hanging, banking jumper to give Chicago a 121-119 lead with less than two seconds to go. Surely, this was the back-breaking, game-winning moment?
Think again. The Nets calmly executed a sideline out of bounds play, finding a curling Johnson for a buzzer-beating runner that forced double-overtime.
Both attrition and fatigue set in during the second overtime period. The Bulls opened up a four-point lead but Johnson refused to let the Nets die, getting an and-one to pull them back within striking distance.
Robinson was hit with his sixth foul, going to the bench with a game-high 34 points (on 14-for-23 shooting), four assists and two steals in 29 minutes. The performance came essentially out of nowhere: Robinson had 29 points (on 12-18 shooting) in the fourth quarter and overtime periods after scoring just five points in the first three quarters.
"I always think I'm on fire, kind of like the old school game NBA Jam,'' Robinson said, according to the Associated Press. "You make a couple in a row, the rim's on fire. You shoot the ball, the ball's on fire. I feel like that at times - all the time. Whenever I'm in the game, I just play with a lot of confidence. You kind of have to lie to yourself and feel like you can't miss.''
Neither team could close the door in the second overtime, with Johnson missing a potential game-winner in the closing seconds and Noah unable to convert multiple Bulls opportunities as the clock ticked out. To the third overtime period they went.
Noah, who blew past his reported 25-30 minutes restriction limit because of plantar fasciitis, fouled out midway through the third overtime, finishing with 15 points (on seven-for-18 shooting), 13 rebounds and four blocks in 39 minutes. Chicago would survive because Brooklyn's offense finally ran out of gas, as reserve center Nazr Mohammed scored two big baskets to maintain Chicago's lead.
Nets guard Deron Williams finished with a team-high 32 points and 10 assists in 58 minutes, but he managed just two points total in the three overtime periods. Johnson, who added 22 points (on 10-for-20 shooting) and three rebounds went scoreless in the third overtime period after scoring 11 points combined in the first two overtimes. Chicago, the Eastern Conference's No. 5 seed, now holds a 3-1 series lead over Brooklyn, the No. 4 seed. Game 5 is set for Monday at the Barclays Center.