In a surprisingly entertaining game Wednesday, the Orlando Magic nearly upset the Chicago Bulls behind strong performances from their starting backcourt, only to fall in triple overtime, 128-125, thanks to the Bulls' hot three-point shooting. The game is the fourth triple-OT affair in team history.
In the finest performance of the career, rookie guard Victor Oladipo led all players with a career-high 35 points on a scorching 15-of-24 shooting, while Jameer Nelson scored a season-high 31 with 10 assists. For Chicago, All-Star center Joakim Noah tallied 26 points and 19 rebounds, while Carlos Boozer added 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting.
On the strength of their rebounding and ball control, the Bulls led by as much as 10 points on two occasions in the first quarter before Orlando ultimately trimmed it to six. Boozer, whom Orlando limited to six points in the first meeting between the teams, shot 6-of-9 for 12 points, but the Magic defended him well for the most part: four of those makes were long two-point jumpers, the sorts of shots it's okay to concede.
Nelson buoyed the Magic in the first with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. He managed to get into the lane unimpeded, even against the Bulls' second-ranked defense, which boded well for Orlando's chances going forward.
Oladipo gave the Magic a push in the second period, scoring 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting after a scoreless first to help the Magic take a three-point lead into intermission. Like Nelson, he attacked the paint to great effect, earning four foul shots in the final three minutes of the half and sinking three. He also showcased a new addition to his arsenal, a floater from the right side, which shot he sank twice in the first half. Having an in-between shot will help him when aggressive help defenders rotate to cut his path to the rim after he blows by his man.
In a notable change to his playing rotation, Jacque Vaughn used both Kyle O'Quinn and Andrew Nicholson in the first half instead of playing Jason Maxiell ahead of them.
Orlando opened the third quarter on a hot streak, making each of its first seven shots to build a 12-point lead after just more than four minutes. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau burned two timeouts during that stretch, but they didn't have much of an effect.
The only thing that reversed Chicago's fortunes was the three-point shot: the Bulls trailed by three at halftime in large part because it missed 11 of their 12 triple-tries. But Chicago got hot from deep in the third, sinking 4-of-5 on the same sorts of looks Orlando afforded it in the first half. All four of those makes came in the final 4:54 of the period, and they helped the Bulls trim Orlando's lead from 15 to seven at the quarter's end.
The Bulls' hot shooting carried into the fourth, with a three-point play by Noah giving Chicago an 87-86 lead with 7:17 to play, its first lead since 1:42 remained in the first quarter. Moments later, Oladipo and Tobias Harris strung together two consecutive driving scores in traffic to put Orlando up by three, but Bulls rookie Tony Snell answered with a tough floater of his own, and followed that hoop up with a putback slam. An Oladipo turnover led to two foul shots for D.J. Augustin, and the free-agent pickup converted both to give Chicago a three-point edge.
The teams traded a combined five misses over the next two minutes before Nelson scored a driving layup to bring Orlando to within one at the 1:52 mark. After a Chicago timeout, Taj Gibson missed a long two-pointer, giving Orlando possession as Harris hauled in the board.
But on the ensuing trip, Oladipo fumbled the ball out of bounds off his knee as he drove at Noah. Augustin fired in a three-pointer to put the Bulls up four. Harris tipped in an Oladipo miss on the Magic's next trip. After his team got a key stop, Vaughn called timeout to draw up a final play. Nelson stepped back to his left and drained a long two-pointer to tie the score at 101.
As Jimmy Butler drove to the basket on Chicago's final trip, Glen Davis deflected the ball from him and ultimately tied him up for a jump ball. Time ticked away with the ball in the air, forcing overtime.
Fittingly, Butler opened the extra frame with a triple off an Augustin feed, the Bulls' ninth triple since the second half began. Orlando took a two-point lead just moments later after a Maurice Harkless layup and a Davis three-point play. Both buckets came off feeds from Nelson.
A long deuce from Davis--after which basket he exulted by screaming an expletive--broke a 108-all tie, and Harris followed by splitting a pair of foul shots on the Magic's next possession. The Bulls came up empty on their next three trips, the last one ending with a Davis steal.
Nelson's fading jumper missed the mark and Thibodeau burned a timeout to set up a final play with 15.7 seconds remaining. The visitors needed just two seconds to get a clean look for Mike Dunleavy, which he drained coming off a screen to tie the score.
The Magic's answer to that bucket was not as precise: Nelson ran the clock down to four seconds before running to his left off a Davis screen. Noah switched onto Nelson as he retreated to the left wing and failed to get a shot off, setting up a second overtime. Nelson tried a shot after the buzzer sounded, and drained it.
The second overtime began inauspiciously for the Magic as Snell drove he lane for an easy, emphatic slam with one hand. The Bulls built a four-point edge off Augustin's leaner with 2:50 to go, but Nelson answered with a deep triple to cut the lead to one. After both teams traded misses, Vaughn called timeout to settle his squad and give it a brief blow with 1:22 to play.
Nelson took another long three after the timeout, but it missed the mark. Gibson's jumper attempt on the ensuing trip rimmed out, but Noah tipped it back in to put the Bulls back up three points.
After a Magic timeout, the team attempted yet another late-game triple, this one from Davis. It came up well short.
Orlando got one last chance to to tie the score after Noah inexplicably airballed a shot out of bounds. Davis didn't come up short on his next triple-try, draining it with 4.2 seconds to play and sending the game to its third overtime period.
Harris gave his team a one-point edge with a straight-away three with 3:16 to go. Orlando added to its lead with an Oladipo reverse as he got the baseline step past Gibson, giving him 35 points. After the Bulls closed back to within one, Davis hustled down two offensive rebounds for Orlando on the same trip, which ultimately ended with Noah tying up Oladipo and winning a jump bal from him. Still, that Davis-fueled possession burned more than a minute off the clock, helping Orlando preserve its one-point edge.
Snell drilled a jumper to put the Bulls ahead, and Noah got the best of Oladipo again with a blocked shot on Orlando's next trip.
The Magic had possession with less than 10 seconds to play in triple overtime and facing a one-point deficit without a timeout. Nelson hit a trailing Davis for another three-point try, but his attempt came up well short, securing the one-point win for Chicago.