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.
That gave the Celtics one last chance with the ball at half court, but Paul Pierce's hurried shot at the buzzer was well off and Chicago became the last NBA team to win this season.
"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.
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.
PISTONS 107, SONICS 99: Grant Hill scored 10 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter to lead Detroit at home. Hill outdueled Seattle's Gary Payton, who finished with 30 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds.
"Playing at home is supposed to be a big advantage in this league, but for us, it had seemed like a disadvantage," Hill said. "But at 2-5, we are still in a hole. We've got to try to get back to .500 by the end of the month."
TIMBERWOLVES 111, SUNS 100: Radoslav Nesterovic scored 23 points, on 11-for-12 shooting, and Terrell Brandon added 21 to lead host Minnesota.
The Suns played their fourth game in five nights on the road.
"Sure you're a little tired," the Suns' Anfernee Hardaway said. "But, we were just not hustling. We don't have the fire in our defense that we should."
CAVALIERS 117, BUCKS 112: Bob Sura stripped the ball from former college teammate Sam Cassell with 1.1 seconds remaining, giving host Cleveland the win.
"I know I was fouled but the ref didn't see it that way," Cassell said. "It takes a big-time referee to step up and make a call like that."
Sura had 23 points and Brevin Knight had 18 and 12 assists for the Cavs, who outran the NBA's second-highest scoring team. Sura and Cassell went to Florida State.
SPURS 95, HORNETS 79: Tim Duncan had 22 points and 12 rebounds as San Antonio got its 16th straight home victory. "I haven't had my best games yet," Duncan said.
MAVERICKS 125, MAGIC 117: Michael Finley scored 28 and three teammates added 21 points apiece as host Dallas ended a three-game losing streak.
TRAIL BLAZERS 131, HAWKS 95: Damon Stoudamire scored 20 points and led a dominant fast break for host Portland, which built a 32-point halftime lead and coasted.
ROCKETS 103, WARRIORS 95: Rookie Steve Francis scored 27 points and Walt Williams had 16 as visiting Houston pulled away in the fourth quarter.