ORLANDO, Fla. — Tanking isn’t in Tom Thibodeau’s DNA. It’s not in his players’ makeup either, especially that of Joakim Noah.
On a Wednesday night in which Carlos Boozer fought through illness and the Bulls trailed by 15 points midway through the third quarter, they had every reason to fade away.
Instead, heart and hustle helped them sweat out a gritty 128-125 victory over the Magic in triple overtime at an entertained Amway Center. Along with the Dec. 2 home loss to the Pelicans, the game marked the first time in franchise history the Bulls have played two triple overtime games in one season.
Noah finished with 26 points and 19 rebounds and repeatedly delivered huge defensive plays. Fittingly, he also rebounded Glen Davis’ game-winning attempt with 1.5 seconds left that led to Jimmy Butler’s final free throws.
Butler, who scored 21 points, set a franchise record by playing 60 minutes.
Noah now has grabbed 10 or more rebounds in 10 straight games. That’s the longest streak for the Bulls since Tyson Chandler posted 13 straight in the 2005-06 season.
“Joakim was just incredible throughout,” Thibodeau said.
Tony Snell, who played well in crunch time with 15 points, opened the third overtime with a 3-pointer. The Magic, who have lost nine straight, fought back to surge ahead 125-122. But Noah made a layup and then stripped and tied up Victor Oladipo for a jump ball the Bulls won.
Snell then buried the go-ahead jumper with 48.6 seconds left. For good measure, Noah switched onto Oladipo and denied another drive by the rookie, who led all scorers with 35 points.
Boozer skipped the morning shootaround with his illness but provided 23 points in 28 minutes.
In the second overtime, Noah tipped home Taj Gibson’s missed jumper with 53.4 seconds left for a three-point lead. But Davis drained a 3-pointer over Noah with 4.2 seconds left and Mike Dunleavy’s baseline runner was well off at the buzzer.
The Bulls trailed by three late in the first overtime and had had trouble executing plays out of timeouts. But Dunleavy, who had just entered the game, buried a 3-pointer off a well-run inbounds play to force the second extra session.
The Bulls appeared headed for victory in regulation when Noah came up with a big strip of Oladipo and D.J. Augustin buried a 3-pointer with 1:07 left. But Tobias Harris sank a jumper off an offensive rebound and Jameer Nelson buried a tough fallaway jumper over Noah with 11.2 seconds left.
After a timeout, the Bulls didn’t even get a shot off, with Butler getting tied up for a jump ball on a drive.
The Bulls’ defensive woes continued, allowing the Magic to score on 10 straight second-quarter possessions and eight straight more in the third. The Magic, who played without Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic, shot 51 percent.