ORLANDO, Fla. – The pile of facial tissues spilled out of an ill Carlos Boozer’s locker. Jimmy Butler, who typically addresses reporters after his shower, called them over as he sat on the floor, icing his legs.
“Y’all can go with me right now, because I can’t move,” Butler said.
If you need an Exhibit A for how tanking isn’t in coach Tom Thibodeau’s or the Bulls’ DNA, all you had to do was enter their locker room after their 128-125 triple-overtime victory over the Magic at the Amway Center.
Butler logged a franchise-record 60 minutes, 20 seconds. Boozer, who was too ill to attend the morning shootaround, scored 23 points in 28 minutes. The Bulls rallied from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit.
And in a franchise-record second triple-overtime contest in one season, Joakim Noah’s heart and hustle stood out over all.
Noah finished with 26 points and 19 rebounds, and repeatedly delivered huge defensive plays. Fittingly, he also rebounded Glen Davis’ game-winning attempt with 1.5 seconds left that Butler partially blocked.
“We’re grimy, and we play as a team,” Butler said. “There’s no guy who doesn’t give all their effort on every single play. When you play like that, good things happen. The basketball gods will reward you.”
Noah now has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 10 straight games. That’s the longest streak for the Bulls since Tyson Chandler posted 13 straight in the 2005-06 season.
“Joakim was just incredible throughout,” Thibodeau said.
The Magic, who have lost nine straight, led 125-122. But Noah made a layup, and then stripped and tied up Victor Oladipo for a jump ball the Bulls won.
Tony Snell, huge in crunch time with 15 points, then buried the go-ahead jumper with 48.6 seconds left. For good measure, Noah switched onto Oladipo and denied another drive by the rookie, who led all scorers with 35 points.
“We just found a way,” Noah said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
In the second overtime, Noah tipped home Taj Gibson’s missed jumper with 53.4 seconds left for a three-point lead. But Davis drained a 3-pointer over Noah with 4.2 seconds left, and Mike Dunleavy’s baseline runner was well off at the buzzer.
The Bulls trailed by three late in the first overtime, and had trouble executing plays out of timeouts. But Dunleavy, who had just entered the game, buried a 3-pointer off a well-run inbounds play for a second OT and, eventually, a giddy postgame locker room.
Thibodeau joked about Butler’s workload of 60 minutes.
“That’s my favorite TV show,” he said.
Butler teased Noah about shooting an airball. Noah fired back by saying, “maybe we should bake [Butler] a cake or something” for his franchise-record.
Then Noah grew serious.
“There’s nothing better than that feeling of getting on the bus after you’ve won,” he said. “Even guys who say, ‘Oh, I don’t care.’ But they’re driving home right now, and they’re pissed off. There’s no better feeling than winning a basketball game. It’s the best.”
Bulls 128, Magic 125, 3OT
Star of the game: Joakim Noah, Bulls, 26 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Up next: Bulls at Wizards, 6 p.m. Friday
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