The Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls made an exhausting bit of NBA history on Friday, playing deep into the night at United Center. A 68-minute affair that included 291 total points, 244 combined shots, 90 free-throw attempts, 51 3-pointers hoisted, 16 ties, 16 lead changes and a last-gasp offensive blitz by both sides in the fourth extra session, the difference — of course — was one shot.
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Just five seconds after hitting a ridiculous off-balance 3-pointer from the right wing to pull Chicago within one, Jimmy Butler once again got the call, the ball and the chance to send Friday's contest into a fifth overtime period. Derrick Rose's cross-court inbounds pass gave Pau Gasol a good angle to feed Butler on the right side, and while Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did a good job of preventing Butler from shooting right off the catch, the All-Star shooting guard had a decent enough look at yet another big shot in a game full of them ...
... only to see it die on the back of the rim, giving Detroit a 147-144 win in the longest game of this NBA season, just the 13th quadruple-overtime tilt on record, the first 4OT contest since March of 2012.
The Pistons played their first 4-OT game in franchise history on Friday night! They have been playing basketball since 1948-49.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 19, 2015
March 16, 1984 - that's the last time the Bulls played a 4 OT game. That was about 3 months before drafting Michael Jordan.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 19, 2015
Butler's missed last-ditch effort kept the game from becoming the first five-overtime outing in 26 years, and from mounting a serious bid for the title of longest NBA game ever — one still owned by the sextuple-OT meeting between the Indianapolis Olympians and Rochester Royals way back on Jan. 6, 1951. Indy won 75-73; sounds like it was a heck of an offensive affair. (Stuff like that helped bring about the introduction of the shot clock for the 1954-55 campaign.)
After going toe-to-toe and blow-for-blow for three hours and 25 minutes, Detroit came out on top, thanks to monster performances from the dynamic duo of center Andre Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson.
Drummond led the way with 33 points on 14-for-25 shooting, 21 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in 54 minutes. It was his first career 30-20 game, and the first by a Piston since Dennis Rodman, 25 seasons ago; moreover, it was a remarkable showing of poise for the 22-year-old big man, who stayed on the court for 24 minutes after picking up his fifth foul, and managed to finish the game without fouling out.
"Wow," Drummond said after the game, according to Andrew Seligman of The Associated Press. "I don't have any words for that one."
Jackson played every second of the four overtime periods, scoring 13 of his 31 points after the fourth quarter while also posting a game-high 13 assists and six rebounds. After Butler's triple cut Detroit's lead to 145-144 with 4.7 seconds remaining, it was Jackson — who had missed potential game-winning jumpers in the closing seconds of the first, second and third overtimes — who took Chicago's foul, went to the line and sank both free throws to seal the final margin of victory.
"We're trying to prove ourselves night in and night out," Jackson said after the game, according to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. "A four-overtime battle like this and come out with a win, I think we're trying to make statements."
The statement they offered Friday: if you want to beat us, you'd better be willing to pack a lunch. And a dinner. And maybe a late-night coffee.
The Bulls had their chances, running off an 11-5 run late in the fourth quarter to take a two-point lead in the final minute before Jackson found Drummond for the layup that tied the game at 105 and set the stage for four additional periods of fighting in a phone booth. With Detroit leading 116-114 and 11 seconds left in the first overtime, Butler drove to drive Detroit's defense, then leapt and found a cutting Gasol all alone on the interior for a game-tying layup:
Then, early in double-OT, Butler tried to charge his team up and sap the Pistons' strength by summoning the energy to gain the lane and throw down a vicious dunk in traffic:
Butler finished the night with a career-high 43 points on 14-for-29 shooting, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks:
... and come the end of the night, that didn't matter to him at all.
Butler on his career-high 43 points: "I don't care."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) December 19, 2015
"We're expected to win, four overtimes or no overtimes," he said, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "We didn't do that. We didn't protect our home court. We had some mental lapses on offense and defense. But I think we played well overall."
Whether they'll do so on Saturday — when they face a New York Knicks club that barely broke a sweat in beating the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday, and will do so on the second night of a back-to-back after four overtimes and a late-night flight — remains to be seen.
Gasol, who scored 30 points while grabbing 15 rebounds, dishing five assists and blocking five shots in 48 minutes on Friday, did not make the trip to New York. Rose, who scored a season-high 34 points on a career-high 34 shot attempts with eight assists and four rebounds, did, but he played 54 minutes against Detroit; Butler played 55 1/2; Taj Gibson logged 44 in the loss, all of which figures to complicated head coach Fred Hoiberg's job come Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden.
"The big thing is we have to put it behind us," Hoiberg said after the game, according to Johnson of the Tribune. "Obviously, we have to play another game (Saturday) and we have to compete. We'll get in obviously very late and guys played a lot of minutes. We're going to have to probably get some guys out a little earlier with the rotation. We'll have to play more guys. But we'll have to find a way to get one."
Detroit did find a way to get one on Friday, an outcome that produced what sounded more like relief than elation in coach Stan Van Gundy.
"It was an epic game," he said, according to Ellis of the Free Press. "You don't play too many four-overtime games; I've never been in one. It was incredible, but it's only fun on our end of it at the end. It's excruciating if you're on their end of it and it's excruciating while you're going through it. Fun was not a part of it for me."
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