When it ended, 3 hours and 9 minutes after it began, cramps ripped through Jameer Nelson’s legs.
So much adrenaline coursed through Tobias Harris after so many ups-and-downs, so many twists-and-turns that Harris thought he could’ve played an entire additional game.
Victor Oladipo felt more angry than exhausted.
But they and just about everyone else on the Orlando Magic roster shared one feeling in common: heartbreak.
The Magic fell to the Chicago Bulls 128-125 in triple overtime Wednesday night.
“It’s tough,” Nelson said. “It’s tough. But it’s basketball, man. You go out there and you leave it out there like we did tonight.”
Bulls rookie Tony Snell hit a pull-up jumper with 48 seconds to go in the third overtime, giving the Bulls the lead for good at 126-125. The Magic had a chance to win late, but Glen Davis missed a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining.
The game featured one clutch basket and one key play after another:
At the end of regulation, Nelson sank a step-back, fadeaway jumper from 21 feet to tie the score 101-101 with 11.2 seconds left. On Chicago’s ensuing possession, with the Bulls playing for one final game-winning shot, Davis forced a jump ball as Jimmy Butler drove to the hoop.
In the first overtime, the Bulls tied the score 111-111 with 13.4 seconds left when Mike Dunleavy hit a wide-open 3-pointer off an inbounds pass. The Magic had a chance to win the game outright in that extra period, and coach Jacque Vaughn called for the Magic to run a high pick-and-roll between Nelson and Davis.
But after Nelson received the ball at halfcourt, he waited too long to call for Davis to come over and set the screen, and Nelson couldn’t get off a shot before the buzzer sounded.
“It was my fault,” Nelson said. “I should’ve gave myself more time to make a play. Instead of going at 5 [seconds left], I should’ve went at 8, and I still could’ve gotten the last shot.”
In the second overtime, Davis sank a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left to tie the score 119-119, prompting him to yell, scream and blow a kiss toward people in the crowd.
“You feel for the guys,” Vaughn said. “You want them to get a victory underneath them, but we got better tonight.”
The Magic lost their ninth consecutive game.
Oladipo finished with a career-high 35 points as he made 15 of his 24 shot attempts and distributed eight assists. He also committed eight turnovers.
Oladipo played 57 minutes, one minute shy of the franchise’s single-game record, set by Horace Grant 16 years earlier.
“I was more mad than exhausted,” Oladipo said. “I’m not going to lie. I’m more mad than exhausted right now.”
Nelson scored a season-high 31 points.
Harris finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
In a way, he set the tone for the entire night late in the first quarter.
He batted away a pass by Butler, and the ball rolled into the Bulls’ defensive end of the court. Harris sprinted after it and dove headfirst onto Amway Center’s parquet floor, corralling the loose ball before Snell could get there. Seated on the floor, Harris shoveled the ball to E’Twaun Moore for an easy layup, which cut the Bulls’ lead to 24-20.
There was a backstory to Harris’ sprawling dive to the floor.
After the Magic’s recent loss in Denver, Vaughn told Harris that he didn’t think Harris had played with enough of an edge.
That talk continued to inspire Harris on Wednesday and directly led to his hustle play.
“That was just me going out for my teammates and my coaches and just playing with a type of urgency and with a type of edge and just show than I want to win,” Harris said.
The Magic (10-29) started to pull away in the third quarter.
They made their first eight shots in the period and built a 15-point lead.
But the Bulls (18-19) fought back.
“It didn’t look very good for a while there,” their coach, Tom Thibodeau, said.
Chicago center Joakim Noah scored 26 points and collected 19 rebounds.
Swingman Jimmy Butler added 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
“We’re grimy and we play as a team,” Butler said. “There is no guy that doesn’t give all the effort on every single play. Whenever you play like that, good things happen. The basketball gods will reward you.”
The Magic hadn’t played a triple-overtime game since Feb. 27, 1998.
As the game wound down, the Magic released they were playing in a classic.
Nelson remembered yelling to his teammates, “It’s like three games in one night!”
“It was a fun game,” Harris said afterward.
“It just goes to show you have to be almost perfect to win a game like that. Any type of mistake is taken so heavily, especially in any type of overtime that you have. For us, it showed. But, at the same time, it was a tough-fought game for both sides. They came out on top this time, but as a team, we fought really hard.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun