Sonics, glitch can't make Bulls flinch

Tribune staff reporter

SEATTLE — Nobody knows where this sometimes magical and always entertaining Bulls season is headed.

But no matter where this wild ride ends, Friday night at Key Arena will go down as a classic.

The Bulls gutted out an improbable 100-97 victory over powerhouse Seattle, posting back-to-back road victories over Western Conference teams for the first time since January 1998.

"This is the biggest win of the season," guard Kirk Hinrich said.

The Bulls, who have won three straight, are back to a season-best five games above .500. Seattle has lost three straight for the first time this season.

This game, featuring two of the surprise success stories in the NBA this season, featured a little bit of everything, including a scoring discrepancy, another double-digit fourth quarter and game-winning shot from Ben Gordon and huge defensive plays from Hinrich, Tyson Chandler and, yes, Eddy Curry.

Gordon's floater in the lane after beating Vladimir Radmanovich on a drive with 12.1 seconds remaining provided the game-winning points. Gordon has a league-leading 18 double-digit fourth quarters.

"I got into the lane two other times and overshot," Gordon said. "That was a make-up shot for the other ones I had missed."

Chandler followed Gordon's shot by blocking Ray Allen's jumper with 5.9 seconds remaining, capping a frustrating night for the Sonics' All-Star. Hinrich's in-your-shirt defense frustrated Allen, who shot 4 of 16 while scoring 17 points.

"Coach told us that we would switch," Chandler said. "I knew Ray would try to take the shot. My whole focus was to not let him get it off. I knew they were limited with time."

Said Hinrich, who also guarded Rashard Lewis down the stretch: "I just tried to make things harder for Ray. He's such a great offensive player. I don't think he got many open looks."

Chris Duhon split a pair of free throws with 4.5 seconds left after Chandler's block, giving Seattle one last chance. Curry was called for a questionable foul on Lewis, who missed the first free throw with 1.5 seconds to play and then purposely missed the second.

Chandler soared high for the rebound, getting fouled with 0.2 seconds left and splitting two meaningless free throws.

"I was really happy with the way we kept our heads late," coach Scott Skiles said. "Our execution was good after the late timeouts. We got the shots we wanted. The guys are growing."

There were plenty of heroics to go around.

Gordon had 14 of his 22 points in the fourth. Curry had 18 points, eight rebounds and a block on Lewis with 2:32 left.

"We knew defense would win this," Curry said. "I was just trying to do my job."

The bitterly contested, physical game featured 55 fouls, including technicals on Jerome James and Antonio Davis, who also was big with 13 points, one of six Bulls in double figures.

Seattle played without Danny Fortson, who got into a verbal spat with coach Nate McMillan at Thursday's practice.

A bizarre and confusing turn of events occurred in the first half. The Bulls erroneously were awarded six points on a possession early in the second quarter on which Chandler converted a three-point play.

The wrong score remained on the scoreboard for the rest of the first half. Statisticians, coaches and referees huddled for several minutes, delaying the start of the second half.

But after a review of the official scoring, a halftime score of 56-53 Bulls was allowed to stand—for the time being.

Finally, at the start of the fourth quarter, veteran official Danny Crawford informed Skiles about the error and three points were correctly taken away from the Bulls. After the change, the Bulls led 75-69 entering the fourth.

"We didn't know it was three points, but we knew it was off," Skiles said. "My point was how can we start the third quarter when we don't know the score? I told Danny every decision is based on time and score. I kept getting told that at some point, they were going to correct it. I was a little nervous about when that point was going to be."

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