CHICAGO -- It's an odd night when TNT drops a broadcast because Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose are in street clothes.
It's an odder night when Tom Thibodeau can't remember from where his game-winning play call came. And it's the oddest night when Taj Gibson is the first option on that play call for his first-ever game-winner -- at any level.
"Option two?" inbounder Mike Dunleavy cracked. "Probably call a timeout."
The Bulls downed the Lakers 102-100 in overtime on Monday night at the United Center, improving to .500 (20-20) for the first time since sitting at 7-7 on Nov. 27.
Gibson's left-handed layup dropped through as the buzzer sounded and held up after video review, capping an inbounds play that began with 0.9 seconds left.
"I thought there was 1.5," Dunleavy said.
Yep, it was that kind of night.
"I didn't think he was going to call my number, but Coach has faith in me," Gibson said. "Thibs just told me to go hard, try to dunk it and get a foul. He told me, 'Use your left.' They always crack jokes on me in practice to use my left. And today I proved them wrong."
Joakim Noah did little to dispute Thibodeau's pregame assessment that the Bulls' emotional leader is in the best stretch of his career, posting his 13th straight double-digit rebounding game. He finished with 17 points, a season-high 21 rebounds and six assists, playing the final 3:45 with five fouls.
D.J. Augustin scored a season-high 27 points, including five straight in overtime to cap a 7-0 run that Gibson started with two free throws. Augustin also sank a tying 3-pointer late in regulation.
Nick Young's 31 points led the Lakers, and his baseline jumper with 6 seconds left tied the game before Gibson's heroics. The Bulls run this inbounds play frequently, but the target is typically Jimmy Butler and rarely a big man.
"I felt a little bit like Peyton Manning," Dunleavy said. "I looked over my options and called a couple of 'Omahas.' No, really, when the play started, I knew we had it because of the way they were guarding Taj."
The ever-secretive Thibodeau was mostly tight-lipped on the play.
"It's a quick read," he said. "Mike made a great play on it to throw the ball up so Taj didn't have to go down and up. You need everyone to sell the play."
About the only downers were the recent mini-streak of good luck on the health front ending when Kirk Hinrich left late in the third quarter with a right hamstring injury. With Rose hurt and the Marquis Teague trade to be completed Tuesday, the Bulls may need to sign a point guard. Veteran Mike James knows the system.
Also, Noah failed to end matters in regulation. He split two free throws with 7.4 seconds left. He fouled Young on a 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left and Young sank all three free throws to tie. And Noah missed a lefty runner at the buzzer.
Ultimately, no matter. And now comes Cleveland and a small forward by the name of Luol Deng.
"It'll probably be weird," Noah said, wearing a perpetual smile. "But I still want to kick his ass right now."
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