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Crucial call goes Bulls' way
The Bulls don't do sympathy.
But with the crazy number of crazy things that have befallen them latelyEddy Curry's irregular heartbeat, Luol Deng's torn wrist ligament, Othella Harrington's extended absence awaiting his daughter's birthmaybe their time for a break finally came.
If so, official Joe DeRosa may have provided it when he called Kelvin Cato for a touch foul on Antonio Davis with 1.4 seconds left in overtime Wednesday night at TD Waterhouse Centre.
Davis, who had rebounded Ben Gordon's miss, grimaced when his first foul shot spun in and then out. But he calmly swished the second to cap a wild 102-101 victory for the Bulls.
Befitting their grit, the Bulls improved to 3-1 in overtime games, dropped their magic number for a playoff berth to two and took over the fourth seed and home-court advantage for the playoffs when Washington lost to Detroit.
"I don't think you make a call at that time in the game," Orlando guard Steve Francis said. "The whole time, those guys had been battling and beating."
Then again, to focus on one foul call would sell short a Bulls effort that erased a 16-point, first-quarter deficit and met every challenge of an intensely physical game that featured 19 lead changes and 15 ties.
"Considering everything that has happened in the past few weeks, my guys keep finding a way," coach Scott Skiles said. "I'm proud of them."
Kirk Hinrich shook off his poor outing in Miami with 25 points, including one tying and one lead-providing basket in overtime.
Tyson Chandler, seemingly everywhere down the stretch, added 15 points and a career-high-tying 22 rebounds and challenged several Steve Francis shots.
Davis, the steady veteran, contributed 11 points and 14 rebounds as the Bulls overcame 34.3 percent shooting.
The bench, led by Chandler, Jannero Pargo and Eric Piatkowski, came up big as the Bulls' depth is being challenged.
"That's what this team is all about," Davis said.
Skiles went to Gordon for the last shot despite the rookie being 2 of 12 then. His runner on the baseline missed, but Davis sneaked in for the rebound and his moment in the spotlight.
"After missing the first one, you don't feel real good," Davis said. "But you learn to relax and shoot it the same way."
Jameer Nelson's desperation three-pointer at the buzzer went astray. Francis' 28 points and 11 assists led Orlando, which played without Grant Hill.
The Bulls didn't score for the final 2:28 of regulation. Rookie Dwight Howard, who had 14 points, 15 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks, powered home a dunk with 50 seconds left to tie the score at 95-95.
Later, Chandler challenged a jumper by Francis and corralled the rebound. But, eschewing a timeout, Pargo pushed the ball up and turned it over.
"If it's a long rebound, we like to push that," Skiles said. "I'm not going to second-guess my players."
Orlando called timeout, but Pargo forced Francis into taking an off-balance 18-footer at the regulation buzzer.
The Bulls clinched a winning record with the victory. That means a lot to everybody, but perhaps more to Curry and Chandler, who went 74-172 in their first three seasons.
"That's huge for us," Chandler said. "That was my whole goal coming here when I got traded here. I took a lot of the blame and I put a lot on myself as far as the losing. I can't tell you how much satisfaction I feel for us to be winning.
"But I want more."