The Chicago Bulls scored just 14 points in the fourth quarter against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Fortunately for the Bulls, the Pacers merely had 12. In a display of offensive futility, the Bulls came out on top thanks to a game winner from Jimmy Butler with 3.7 seconds to play in a 98-96 win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The win moved the Bulls to 37-37, two games behind the Pacers for the eighth and final playoff spot. With three wins over Indiana this season, Chicago has the tiebreaker. The Detroit Pistons -- who picked up an 88-82 win over an Oklahoma City Thunder team playing without Kevin Durant -- are a half-game up on the Pacers at 40-35.
While Butler's jumper was huge, the Bulls relied primarily on unexpected heroes to lead them to victory over the Pacers. Nikola Mirotic had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Cristiano Felicio -- who is averaging roughly seven minutes per game in his 23 games with the Bulls this season -- added eight points and five rebounds in seven huge minutes in crunch time.
The Pacers, meanwhile, squandered another winnable game. They've lost 21 times in games that were decided in the final minute this season, per Candace Buckner of the Indy Star. Against the Bulls they didn't score in the final 3:03. Paul George had 20 points and nine rebounds, but the Pacers' inability to close out a game came back to haunt them once again.
The way this season has gone for the Bulls, who ended a four-game losing skid, they might need to expect the unexpected if they're going to find their way into the playoffs. Butler hit a pretty game-winner, his third against the Pacers this season ...
... but he had just 14 points and four rebounds for the game.
Gasol was solid with 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Derrick Rose was 4-of-15 from the field on his way to eight points and four assists.
The Bulls still won somehow, and they can thank youngsters out of Montenegro and Brazil.
Mirotic, now in his second season with the Bulls, has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his young career. Against the Pacers he showed just how tough he can be to defend. The 6'10 power forward was 9-of-18 from the field and 7-of-13 from deep. When he's stretching defenses with his shot, the Bulls are a different beast. Averaging just 10.6 points per game heading into Tuesday, his breakout games have been few and far between.
Felicio, meanwhile, hasn't scored in double figures all season. He was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line, and grabbed four offensive rebounds on a night when Chicago was dominated by the Indiana frontcourt. He scored six of his eight points in the six minutes he played in the fourth quarter and helped keep the Pacers at bay. The Pacers had 52 points in the paint, but only six of them came in the fourth quarter.
This is how things are going for the Bulls: Players like Felicio, a 23-year-old rookie out of Brazil, and Mirotic need to step up consistently to keep their playoff hopes alive. Can the Bulls continue to rely on role players to play out of their minds? If the playoffs are a possibility, they're going to need the stars to step up, too.
2 other things
The Washington Wizards put up a fight, but the Golden State Warriors are still on pace for history
Unlike the Bulls, Pacers and Pistons -- who looked sloppy and worn out -- the Wizards at least played up to their potential Tuesday. Unfortunately for the Wizards, they were up against the Warriors, and the Warriors don't lose at home.
Golden State won its 54th consecutive regular season home game and moved to 67-7 on the season with a 102-94 victory. The Wizards took advantage of some lazy Warriors defense to stay in the game through two and a half quarters, but then Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson wore them down and Draymond Green almost had another triple-double with 15 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. Curry had 26 points and Thompson added 16. Curry even had a dunk.
The loss dropped the Wizards to 36-38, three games out of the playoffs. With only eight to play, their window is closing.
The Warriors, on the other hand, are not shying away from the 1995-96 Bulls. With eight games to play, they're only five wins away from history.
Michael Beasley will not let the Houston Rockets die
The Cleveland Cavaliers led by 19 points at halftime and by as many as 20, but the Rockets' unpredictable ways continued as they erased the deficit to win 106-100 and keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race. The Cavaliers were without LeBron James, but the meltdown stings nonetheless.
James Harden had 27 points, eight assists and six rebounds to lead the Rockets, but it was the offensive outburst from Michael Beasley off the bench that pushed them over the edge. Beasley took one less shot than Harden -- 16 for Harden and 15 for Beasley -- but played 17 fewer minutes. He is a scoring machine, even if he is a little rough around the edges. And with the Rockets up a half-game on the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final playoff spot, Beasley should continue to be an integral part of the offense. He might not be the most reliable player in the NBA, but at this point, he's one of the Rockets' best options.
Play of the night
Aaron Gordon is trying to mimic Michael Jordan's free throw line dunk now. In a game.
5 fun things
After the Pistons beat the Thunder, Reggie Jackson celebrated and Russell Westbrook wasn't impressed. "Honestly, I think it's some real bulls***," Westbrook told reporters after the game.