After the drama of the Bulls' 94-93 victory over the Kings ended Saturday night, the comedy began.
"I don't know if I could've taken another overtime game, so I'm glad I sent my best free-throw shooter to the line and he came through," interim coach Jim Boylan said.
Ben Wallace, he of the 47.6 percent free-throw shooting, certainly didn't need one, swishing home the winning free throw with 3.2 seconds remaining for his only point.
For good measure, Wallace then blocked Brad Miller's 20-foot jumper at the buzzer, despite vociferous protests from Miller and Kings coach Reggie Theus.
"I thought he did foul," said Theus, coaching his first game in the city where he once starred.
That the Bulls, led by Andres Nocioni's 26 points, narrowly averted their third straight overtime game at home against a Kings team playing without four rotation players, including its its top two scorers, might give some pause. But the Bulls are in no position to judge victories, so they brushed off such questions.
"Every win for us is big," said Wallace, who went 1 of 6 from the line. "We've dug ourselves a hole. If we want to get to where we want to be, we have to find ways to win games. We didn't play the way we'd like, but we stayed in it and gave ourselves an opportunity to win."
They won it on a nifty inbounds play in which Kirk Hinrich executed a give-and-go with Wallace, whose 11 rebounds gave him his sixth straight double-digit game since Boylan took over.
Rather than guard Hinrich as he inbounded the ball, the Kings double-teamed and took away Ben Gordon, who scored 20 and was the Bulls' first option. Hinrich found Wallace, who then handed the ball back to Hinrich. Seeing an opening, Hinrich drove the baseline and was double-teamed. So he kicked it to a cutting Wallace, who almost made the shot while Mikki Moore fouled him.
"When we were diagramming it in the timeout, we told Kirk to look for that," Boylan said. "Kirk did a nice job driving and drew the defender. It's a little dangerous and it did kind of bite them a little bit when you take a guy off whoever is taking the ball out of bounds."
The Bulls were hoping to avoid another taut outcome because the Kings were playing their second game in as many nights with Kevin Martin, Ron Artest, Mike Bibby and Shareef Abdur-Rahim sidelined by injuries.
The Bulls were without Luol Deng (Achilles' tendinitis), but Nocioni rewarded Boylan's faith for placing him in the lineup by draining his first three three-pointers and scoring 13 of the Bulls' first 15 points.
This after Nocioni had shot 4 of 13 in his last game and 34.7 percent over his previous five.
"I played with confidence," Nocioni said. "I came here with my mind ready to take the open shot."
With solid and unexpected bench contributions from Tyrus Thomas and Thabo Sefolosha, the Bulls led by as many as eight.
Thomas scored his first six of 14 points on dunks, including two alley-oops, and added nine rebounds.
But the Kings, led by Miller's 22 points and 13 rebounds, didn't go away. Miller's two free throws with 63 seconds left tied the game, setting up Wallace's heroics.
"I just do what I do," Wallace said. "Somebody has to be the hero. Why not me?"
Bulls 94, Kings 93
Wallace stars as finisher in Bulls victory over Kings
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