EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Terrence Williams had a text message from north of the border waiting for him after the New Jersey Nets' stunning double-overtime win over the Chicago Bulls.
``A couple of players from the Raptors that I know just texted me and said: 'Thank you,'' said Williams, who refused to name them. ``It was like in my head: 'Thank you for what?' Then, oh, the eighth spot and all that. It's special because it came with a win.'
Williams was certainly the catalyst in the Nets' big win that prevented the Bulls from taking over the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
He had a career-high 27 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in leading New Jersey to a 127-116 victory and becoming the first Nets rookie to post a triple-double since 2001.
The Bulls' loss coupled with the Raptors' loss in Atlanta left the teams tied for eighth in the conference with 38-41 records and three games left in the regular season. The teams meet in Toronto on Sunday. The Raptors have the tiebreaker should they finish with the same record.
``I hope this makes us stronger, because we have to play tougher to get into the playoffs,' said Derrick Rose, who had 25 points before fouling out in the second overtime. ``We just have to fight through it. The next one is very important. We only have a small amount of games and there is no room for error now.'
The Bulls easily could have won this game, one which they rallied from a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit.
However, they allowed Brook Lopez to slam home a rebound with 0.1 seconds left in regulation to tie the game and then blew a seven-point lead with 69 seconds to go in the first overtime.
``We weren't effective and let the game slip away,' Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. ``It was in hand and that's what makes this tough. We can't hang our heads. We don't have the time to do so. But when the game is on the line, you have to be able to get it done.'
The Nets (12-67) got the job done by scoring the final seven points in the first overtime and the first seven in the second extra session.
``It was a definite playoff atmosphere because we know how much they needed this game,' said Nets point guard Devin Harris, who hit a go-ahead jumper early in the second overtime. ``Toronto lost tonight, so it was really, really important for them, but we just wanted to protect home court and finish the season on a high note, so we are attacking every game.'
Lopez added 26 points and 14 rebounds, and Harris scored 19 as the Nets won for the fifth time in nine games. Yi Jianlian chipped in with 15 points and 12 rebounds.
Brad Miller scored a season-high 27 points with 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who lost for only the fourth time in 11 games.
After Harris put New Jersey ahead for good, Williams hit a jumper to stretch the lead to 116-112 with 3:12 to play. Harris hit one free throw on the play Rose fouled out, then set up Yi for a dunk with 2:19 to play that seemingly took the air out of the Bulls, who were playing their second game in two nights.
``They beat us real bad at their place last week so that was motivation for us,' Lopez said.
The Bulls nearly had the game locked up in the first overtime, scoring the first seven points and eventually leading 112-105 with 1:07 to play.
New Jersey rallied, taking advantage of two turnovers by Rose in the final minute. Lopez hit two free throws to tie the game at 112 with 12.8 seconds to play and Rose missed a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer.
The Nets were in danger of losing in regulation before Lopez made a spectacular rebound stuff of a missed floater by Courtney Lee to tie it at 103.
The play was not without controversy, because replays seemed to show the ball might have been on the cylinder when Lopez jammed it home. Del Negro appealed for the officiating crew to review the play, but it was not reviewable.
New Jersey used a 20-10 run bridging the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth to open an 87-76 lead on a layup by Josh Boone. The Bulls outscored the Nets 17-7 in the final 4:42 of regulation, with Miller scoring 12 in the run.
Chicago, which had not led since early in the third quarter, took a 100-99 lead when Joakim Noah tipped in a missed drive by Rose for a 100-99 lead with 48.6 seconds to go.
A drive by Harris got New Jersey within 102-101 with 4.6 seconds left and Rose left the door open, making 1 of 2 free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Lopez's controversial stuff forced the overtime.
NOTES: New Jersey won the season series 2-1. ... Williams banked in a running 35-foot 3-pointer to end the first quarter. ... Nets starting F Jarvis Hayes sprained his right ankle in the first quarter and did not return. ... Kenyon Martin was the last Nets rookie to post a triple-double with 18 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists on March 5, 2001 against Atlanta. ... New Jersey had five players with at least 15 or more points. It was New Jersey's first overtime game of the year and its highest-scoring game of the season.
The Associated Press News Service
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