Bulls lose in close call

It wasn't a game between the Bulls and Seattle SuperSonics here Tuesday that would inspire great literature. Yes, that's the excuse here. But one might say it was a game most foul.

There were 71 fouls called and 76 free throws shot. When it ended with a 99-93 Seattle victory, at least everyone's legs were in good shape from walking to the free throw line.

"It's disappointing," Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. "We took control, but let them back in. And then some things went wrong and we couldn't recover. We became tentative and started fouling them. It was called pretty tight, but any crew Joey [Crawford's] part of you're going to get a well-officiated game.

"We kept talking to our guys about how the game was being called, but we never seemed to get a feel for it. They kept parading to the free throw line for free throws and when they missed they got the rebound. Reggie Evans put on a rebounding clinic out there."

Evans had 19 rebounds and Rashard Lewis, a 6-foot-10-inch matchup nightmare, scored 30 points as the Bulls never could find a defender against him. Jerry Sloan, err Kirk Hinrich, bothered Ray Allen into 5-of-18 shooting, though he shot only 3 of 15 in chasing Allen around. Ben Gordon led the Bulls with 21 points but hit only 6 of 18 shots.

"I thought it was a fair whistle," Skiles said. "They were going to call it tight and they did. I felt [the Sonics] adjusted to that and we didn't."

It rains a lot in Seattle, and it seemed since Friday's Bulls' victory there it was the tears of the Seattle players that created the deluge, crying about the Bulls' supposed rough tactics.

But Seattle withstood them this time with a 51-43 rebounding edge and by holding the Bulls to less than 40 percent shooting.

It was a discouraging conclusion for the Bulls, who had a 15-point lead early in the third quarter after a brilliant second period in which it looked like they would hustle the SuperSonics like they were schoolchildren in a pool room.

For the night, Seattle made 30 or 44 free throws while the Bulls made 22 of 32.

The Bulls broke from a 25-25 first quarter to outscore Seattle 32-21 as they outrebounded them 20-6, 9-1 on the offensive boards. It was a brilliant display of what this Bulls team can do. Here are some examples:

Andres Nocioni saved an Eric Piatkowski miss from going out of bounds and passed back to Othella Harrington, who found Piatkowski for a three pointer as the 24-second clock expired.

Chris Duhon's running bank shot to beat the clock with one second left in the half, on which he was fouled, missed the free throw and then rebounded the miss between Reggie Evans and Nick Collison for a 57-46 halftime lead.

A Nocioni shot blocked, rebounded by Antonio Davis, who missed a jumper that Harrington rebounded that went to Duhon for a missed layup that went to Harrington before Piatkowski ended the sequence with a missed three-pointer. Even though the scoreboard didn't light up the fans did.

But then either the Bulls' bullying tactics caught up to them or the referees were persuaded by the Sonics cries.

Seattle went on a free-throw-fueled 15-0 run that enabled it to take a 74-69 lead entering the fourth quarter.

It didn't help that the Bulls missed 18 of 22 third-quarter shots, were 1 of 8 on three-pointers and were outrebounded 18-7 in the quarter.

Seattle looked like it was safely ahead 89-82 with about three minutes remaining on some nice inside passing for dunks.

But Gordon converted a free throw, hit a jumper and then hit Andres Nocioni as the defense collapsed for a layup and three-point play.

Seattle came back with a lob to Jerome James, but Gordon hit a pair of free throws and Antonio Davis a short jumper to keep it within 95-93 with 18.1 seconds left before Seattle clinched it on, you guessed it, a pair of free throws.