A doubly painful United Center loss

If home is where the heart is, it was a broken one Thursday night for the Bulls.

That's because the Bulls, now 1-5 in the United Center, played their hearts out before losing a thrilling, yet disappointing 92-89 overtime grapple to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The loss left the Bulls at 4-6 and heartsick as well because they lost Jamal Crawford after a terrifying fall late in the game. Crawford, who was undergoing tests for a possible neck injury late into the night at Rush Presbyterian Hospital, was not believed to be seriously injured.

However, team doctors had Crawford removed on a stretcher in a neck brace for precautionary reasons after what Bulls trainer Fred Tedeschi termed the worst fall he's seen for a basketball player in his 20 years. Crawford figures to miss at least Saturday's game.

"He basically answered my questions, `Where are you?' and all that," Tedeschi said. "We're not dealing with a concussion. I'm more concerned about his neck. He landed on the back of his head and his chin was forced down. That's the one that usually gets football players in trouble. But he knew what happened. He never lost consciousness."

Though the Bulls lost just a game, the outcome was especially disheartening because the Bulls, timid and disinterested early in the season, played perhaps their most vigorous, if not their most artistic, game.

Latrell Sprewell, with a game-high 27 points, stuck a dagger in the Bulls with a tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime after Jalen Rose, who led the Bulls with 25 points and hit clutch shots down the stretch, missed one of two free throws with 24.3 seconds left to leave the Bulls with an 82-79 lead.

"I felt like I let the team down when I had the biggest free throws of the game," Rose said. Eddy Curry also missed a pair of late free throws. "I was supposed to step up there and be a good free-throw shooter and knock them down."

Neither team was sharp in overtime in what had become a physical game with considerable bumping and shoving off the ball. But Sprewell hit consecutive shots, the second a 22-footer with time running out that gave the Timberwolves an 88-86 lead with about one minute remaining.

Sprewell pounded his chest, the air escaping from the arena and the Bulls' hopes as Kendall Gill was called for an offensive foul and Scottie Pippen missed a long three-pointer. Then Sam Cassell wrapped up the game with free throws. Kevin Garnett had 19 points and 17 rebounds for the 5-4 Timberwolves.

"We just made some mistakes that came back to haunt us," said Pippen, who was rushed into the game early in the second half when Minnesota began attacking rookie Kirk Hinrich, mostly with physical play that led to several small confrontations. "We're not quite familiar with each other. We're losing games and it's tough.

"We are playing better on both ends of the court," added Pippen, who had 12 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. "But you can't expect it to be a lot better than what it is now. We had a chance to win this game in regulation, but we missed some foul shots. We gave them some opportunities and gave them hope and they took advantage."

The good news was it appeared Crawford had avoided serious injury. The bad news was the Bulls still were hurting.

"We did get word he's doing fine," Rose said. "It looked a lot worse than it was, and that's a good thing for us. But I felt like I was supposed to step up there and give us a four-point lead.

"That definitely was a game we should have won."