CHICAGO | Former Bulls' guard C.J. Watson thought it was funny at the time.
His blown breakaway dunk at 3:11 of the fourth quarter with the Nets leading 109-95 could have iced Game 4 of this intense playoff series. Could've.
Instead, Watson shook his head after messing up, then smiled as if to say: “No big deal. The game is still ours.”
The joke was on him as the Bulls punched, scratched and eventually willed their way to a 142-134 win in triple overtime before another United Center sellout, this one going home hoarse no doubt.
"It's a killer," said Nets' interim coach P.J. Carlesimo, "but we need to focus on Monday. Neither of us did a good job of stopping each other, but turnovers and missed free throws really hurt us."
And what about that blown dunk?
"I don't think it would be possible to overstate how much that hurt. There was nobody else in the picture," Carlesimo said.
The Bulls went on a 16-2 run to send it into the first OT behind Nate Robinson's 23 fourth-quarter points.
"Big shot after big shot. But that's what he does, which makes him so valuable because it doesn't take much to get him going," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau.
"The game wasn't going our way to start the fourth but our guys kept battling and that's something they've done all year."
Joe Johnson's runner with two-tenths of a second left in the first OT tied it at 121-121 to save Brooklyn. Teammate Brook Lopez could've won it in the second OT, which ended 127-127, but missed a free throw.
"We had a hard time getting stops and we're fortunate to come out with a win," Thibodeau said. "We played well offensively and we've got to play better defensively."
Carlesimo wasn't thrilled with the officiating but his team was the real culprit.
The Nets missed 16 free throws, had 20 turnovers leading to 28 Chicago points, and their reserves were humiliated 57-22 in bench scoring.
The Bulls' 15 turnovers resulted in 21 Brooklyn points.
Carlos Boozer had 21 points, Kirk Hinrich 18 and 14 assists in nearly 60 exhausting minutes. Jimmy Butler scored 16, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah 15 apiece, with Noah grabbing 13 rebounds on a bad foot.
"That's Joakim. Great heart. He's sorta mucking through it right now because he hasn't practiced a lot, but he keeps going after every ball," Thibodeau said.
The Bulls can wrap up the series Monday in Brooklyn.
"Nate was amazing. It was like he couldn't miss," Boozer said. "When he's on like that, let him roll. And boy, was he rolling.
"Kirk Hinrich did a helluva job. He's guarding their best player in D. Will (Deron Williams), playing the whole game it seemed like. And he got everyone involved."
Williams led the Nets with 32 points, but missed 14 of his 25 field-goal attempts. Lopez had 26 points and Joe Johnson 22.
"My experience is, closing out a team is the hardest game to win because they have nothing to lose," Boozer added. "It's going to be one helluva game."