By K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune reporter
1:05 AM CDT, April 23, 2014
Losing the first two home games of a best-of-seven series is tough enough. Blowing double-digit, second-half leads in both is even more demoralizing.
"Demoralizing?" Joakim Noah said.
Then, in the direct aftermath of Tuesday's shocking 101-99 overtime loss to the Wizards, he thought of a different word.
"It sucks," Noah said. "I hate losing. Everyone on this team is giving everything that they have. I feel like they hit big shot after big shot. You have to give credit where credit is due. They're playing at a high level. Throughout the year, it hasn't been pretty at times. But we're a team that finds a way."
If the Bulls find a way this time, they will become just the fourth team in NBA history to rally after losing the first two home games.
A wild night at the United Center ended with Kirk Hinrich needing to make both free throws with 2.4 seconds left to tie, missing the first and intentionally missing the second, with John Wall skipping off with the ball and victory.
The Wizards never trailed in overtime, with Nene scoring six straight points and the Bulls missing their first seven shots. This continued an absolutely abysmal offensive stretch in which they didn't score for 7 minutes, 38 seconds dating to regulation and went without a field goal for 8:07.
"I thought we had some good looks," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We have to do better."
Thibodeau took exception to a question about whether the closing rotation could change. And few teams or coaches ever make changes this late in the season.
The Bulls led by 10 points with 6:58 remaining in regulation.
"D.J. has made a lot of big shots for us," Thibodeau said. "Taj has made a lot of big shots for us. Joakim has. We had some costly turnovers late. So we have to correct that."
Still, the Bulls had a final chance. Noah, who had five turnovers, scored four points in five seconds as Augustin drew an offensive foul on Wall. And after Bradley Beal missed a jumper, Nene fouled out with 2.4 seconds left, giving Hinrich his chance.
"I was upset," Hinrich said. "I felt I should have made the layup, to be honest. Just wasn't able to do it. I thought I shot a little quick. But you have to move on and stay confident."
Noah defended Hinrich.
"I love him to death," Noah said. "I got his back 150 percent."
Beal scored 11 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth to lead the comeback and tied the game by splitting two free throws with 52.9 seconds left in regulation. The Wizards shot 47.5 percent, also getting 17 points from Nene.
Augustin scored a career-playoff-high 25 points, Gibson finished with a career-playoff-high 22 points and 10 rebounds and Noah added 20 points and 12 rebounds.
A disastrous start featured the Wizards scoring the first seven points and leading by as many as 17. Thibodeau broke his rotation early, sitting Mike Dunleavy for Tony Snell and Carlos Boozer, who almost always plays the entire first quarter, for Nazr Mohammed. Neither Dunleavy nor Boozer returned the rest of the half.
The Bulls dominated the third as the game got chippy. Trevor Ariza elbowed Noah, drawing double technicals. Earlier, Hinrich and Beal scrapped for another double-technical.
"There are a lot of emotions in the game, but I'll never say that we're going to shy away from the physicality," Gibson said. "That was a crazy question.''
Augustin had called this game a must-win at the morning shootaround. What will Game 3 be?
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