CHICAGO -- The mood in the locker room of a team that just lost a game in quadruple overtime is exactly what you expect it to be: Sadness, exhaustion and frustration fill the air. Friday night's 147-144 defeat at the hands of the Detroit Pistons wasn't just another loss for the Chicago Bulls.
How could it be?
"Oh man," Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. "It's the worst feeling right now ... ."
After 68 minutes of basketball, Gibson and his teammates didn't have enough juice to close out a feisty Pistons team. The Bulls didn't make enough plays down the stretch and couldn't make stops when they needed them on wobbly legs. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg acknowledged he made a mistake by not calling a timeout late in the second overtime to set up a potential winning play with just over two seconds left.
When asked about his career-high 43 points in 56 minutes, Jimmy Butler spoke softly.
"I don't care," he said.
On the other side of the wall, the Pistons were just as tired. Coach Stan Van Gundy seemed more relieved than excited after his team secured the victory.
"Maybe for you guys," Van Gundy said to reporters when asked if the game was fun. "I think for Fred and I, it was excruciating. But maybe for you guys it was fun. It was an epic game. You don’t play too many four overtime ones. I’ve never been in one.
"It was incredible, but it’s only fun if you’re on our end of it. It’s excruciating if you’re on their end of it, and it’s excruciating while you’re going through it. Fun was not part of it for me."
As exasperated as the Bulls were in defeat, the group didn't look or sound like a broken team after it was over. Several Bulls players believe the defeat could serve as a building block for the future.
"It would have been a great win, especially for morale's sake, just learning from it," Gibson said. "But I think it's good for us. We're going to take that game and learn from it. It's a positive. Derrick [Rose] played well. Jimmy played well. Pau [Gasol] played well. We just got to keep moving forward."
The reality for the Bulls is that they have won four of their past five games. They're trying to get into more of a rhythm offensively, and they showed plenty of mental and physical toughness on Friday.
The game also served as a potential turning point. After Rose missed what would have been a winner at the end of regulation, the Bulls ran many of their sets the rest of the way through Butler. He scored 21 of his 43 points in the final three overtime frames after not registering a point in the first extra period. These are the types of games the All-Star swingman trained for all summer during early-morning workouts in San Diego.
Therefore, Butler didn't believe fatigue was a major factor in the final minutes, despite the fact that this was just the 13th game in league history to go at least four overtimes.
"I don't think so," Butler said. "I think we had some mental lapses on offense and on defense, but I think we played well. I think that they made shots. We both rebounded. I think we did our job; we just came up a little short."
Butler and the Bulls now face the tough challenge of playing against the New York Knicks on Saturday night on the tail end of one of the more tiring back-to-back sets in recent memory.
But the beauty of the NBA sometimes is in its unwavering consistency: There's always another game to play, another flight to catch. As Gasol prepared to go to the airport for his team's charter flight to New York, he summed up his feelings on a night neither team will soon forget.
"It's hard," Gasol said. "You fight hard, you put everything you have on the court. And to lose like this, four overtimes at home, it's a heartbreaker. But it happens. The good thing is we fought like hell, and we competed as hard as we could and we gave ourselves a chance. They made more plays than we did at the end, so we got to move on."