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A double indignity for Bulls

Often in his five-game tenure as interim coach, Jim Boylan has said "the season is slipping away" for reasons behind many of his decisions.

Boylan never expected Ben Gordon to present a literal enactment of his phrase Thursday night in the Bulls' crushing 115-109 double-overtime loss to the Trail Blazers.

With the thriller tied, Luol Deng injured and a sellout United Center crowd in full throat, Gordon let the ball slip while trying to pump-fake to free himself for a shot near the top of the key.

James Jones tipped the unforced turnover to Jarrett Jack, who raced downcourt with the gift to score on a layup with 19.3 seconds remaining and absorb a foul from Gordon for a three-point play that gave the Blazers the lead for good.

"We were trying to get 'BG' coming off a stagger, but they were switching everything," Boylan said. "It's almost like they force you to play a lot of one-on-one because of the defensive style they play."

And when Gordon goes one-on-one, everything ranging from a spectacular shot to a turnover is very much in play.

"The ball just slipped right out of my hands," Gordon said.

On the next Bulls possession, Joe Smith, huge with a season-high 31 points, almost scored off an offensive rebound while Brandon Roy was fouling him.

But just like Smith's layup attempt rimmed out, so, too, did his second free throw with 14 seconds left, forcing the Bulls to begin their intentional fouling.

Jones' four straight free throws sealed the outcome, which dropped the Bulls' record in the second game of back-to-backs to 1-8.

Boylan, whose two defeats are both home overtime games, disputed a question afterward that the Bulls are too reliant on Gordon, who led them in scoring for the fifth straight game with 32 points off the bench.

"Ben's our go-to guy," Boylan said. "When you're in that role, that's what you do. 'BG' is the focal point, but he's not alone. We ran quite a few things down the stretch to get Joe the ball, and he was productive for us."

Indeed, Smith scored the Bulls' final four points of the first overtime, tying the game with a jumper with 42.8 seconds left and again on two free throws with 10.2 seconds to play.

In the second overtime, just as he had done in scoring the final and tying points with 65 seconds left in regulation, Gordon showed some mettle. His 19-foot jumper with 61 seconds remaining gave the Bulls a 108-106 lead.

But Roy, who had 25 points and a career-high-tying 11 assists with no turnovers in close to 49 minutes, was fouled and tied the game with two free throws and 45.6 seconds left.

"We thought this a very winnable game," Gordon said, emphasizing a blown 14-point, third-quarter lead. "We just didn't make the plays we needed to in crunch time. So it definitely hurts."

Few beyond the president of the Trail Blazers fan club could have predicted this game would become a litmus test for the Bulls.

As the league's youngest team, the Blazers were supposed to be riding training wheels, particularly when they lost top overall pick Greg Oden to injury for the season.

Instead, the upstart Blazers have won 15 of 16, the kind of streak many predicted for a Bulls team whose big-boy wheels have fallen off too many times this season.

kcjohnson@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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