Fred Hoiberg hoisted the Bulls on his shoulders. His fourth-quarter shooting, rebounding and then his go-ahead free throw with 1.7 seconds left finally earned Chicago its first victory.
But his strategy at the free throw line in the final seconds nearly turned disastrous before the Bulls hung on for an 92-91 victory Saturday night over the Boston Celtics.
"We needed a spark and we really needed the win," Hoiberg said.
Hoiberg was fouled driving through the lane and hit his first free throw to break a 91-91 tie. He intentionally missed the second, firing a line drive at the basket, but it almost backfired when he was called for a lane violation.
"Right as I was shooting the second one, I thought if it goes off the rim and comes right back to me, the game is over," Hoiberg said.
"I don't know if I crossed the line. I didn't think I did. But it turned out to be a stupid play. Of course, if it had come back to me, it would have been a smart play. You can look at it two ways."
The Bulls, ready to embark on a seven-game road trip, had lost their first five games, the second worst start in franchise history. The 1967-68 team started 0-9.
"Fred does a lot of intangibles. He's getting sustained minutes for the first time in his career and he's part of a rotation," said Bulls coach Tim Floyd, who coached Hoiberg at Iowa State.
"I'm not responsible for that rim play late in the game," Floyd added. "We'll give him a "silly" fine. In theory it was a good play, but they said he stepped on the line."
Hoiberg, signed as free agent after spending four years as a reserve with the Pacers, finished with 19 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, and Randy Brown had 18 for the Bulls.
"Hoiberg got hot and hurt us," Walker said. "We let them get easy shots. We didn't play defense and that's what cost us the game."
Brown hit one of two free throws with 20 seconds left to give the Bulls a 91-89 lead, but Anderson's jumper tied it. The Bulls called a timeout with 10 seconds remaining before Hoiberg penetrated the lane and was fouled.
Hoiberg hit a floater and a 3-pointer, Hersey Hawkins made a 3-pointer and Hoiberg connected again for three more during a 13-2 run to give the Bulls a 78-71 lead with just over nine minutes to go.
Boston rallied with eight straight points, regaining the lead on Pierce's steal and dunk. But Brown drove for a basket and Hawkins converted a three-point play to make it 83-79 Chicago with 4:16 left.
Chicago went up six twice, but Boston responded with seven straight, taking the lead on Walker's three-point play and then his two free throws.
Elton Brand's shot inside rolled in with 1:18 to go to put Chicago up 90-89. Boston's Vitaly Potapenko was called for traveling but the Celtics got the ball back when Brand fouled out with 34 seconds left.
Ten seconds later, Walker missed the two free throws.
Boston went up by six after three quarters behind nine points in the quarter from Anderson.
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