CHICAGO -- The smallest man on the court put a team on his back and now the Chicago Bulls are one win away from advancing to the second round.
Five-foot-nine Nate Robinson scored 34 points and sparked a huge fourth-quarter rally as Chicago beat the Brooklyn Nets 142-134 in three overtimes in an epic NBA playoff game on Saturday at the United Center.
Chicago now leads the first-round series 3-1 and can close it out on Monday at Brooklyn.
The Bulls trailed 109-95 with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter when Robinson took over. He scored 12 straight points, then fed Carlos Boozer for a reverse lay-in that tied the score 109-109 with 55.4 seconds left.
Robinson scored 23 points in the fourth quarter, one short of Michael Jordan's franchise playoff record. Early in the fourth quarter, Robinson was flattened by a back-court screen set by Gerald Wallace and was shaken up briefly. In the second quarter, Robinson was involved in a mild scuffle with Nets guard C.J. Watson.
"It's not necessarily me taking over," Robinson said. "The team needed a lift and that's when I'm usually as my best. I'm a fierce competitor and hate to lose and love to win. It's the same way with my teammates."
In the third overtime, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng hit jumpers to give the Bulls a five-point lead. Then backup center Nazr Mohammed followed in a missed free throw to put Chicago in control at 140-134 with 20 seconds remaining.
"The game wasn't going our way to start the fourth, however the guys kept battling," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought our team showed a lot of toughness."
Boozer added 21 points for the Bulls. Kirk Hinrich played just under 60 minutes, finishing with 18 points and 14 assists. Joakim Noah logged 40 minutes on a sore foot, posting 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Deron Williams led Brooklyn with 32 points, while Brook Lopez had 26 and Joe Johnson 22. Robinson, Noah, Gibson, Wallace and Reggie Evans all fouled out.
After Chicago's 14-0 run tied the score in the fourth quarter, Brooklyn came back with a pair of free throws by Lopez with 33 seconds remaining. On the other end, Deng missed a corner 3-pointer but Noah's put-back evened the score with 23.9 seconds on the clock.
Williams got a good look at a 13-foot fadeaway at the end of regulation, but it missed and Jimmy Butler blocked Wallace's put-back chance.
"In regulation time, there were so many ebbs and flows to the game," Brooklyn coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "We were behind almost the whole first half. It was both teams just kind of slugging each other."
In the first overtime, Robinson hit a running 22-foot bank shot with 1.7 seconds on the clock to give Chicago a 121-119 edge. Johnson came back with a 10-foot runner as time expired to force a second extra session.
In the second overtime, Lopez tied the score by hitting a free throw with 48.7 seconds left and the teams came up empty on the remaining possessions.
The Nets took control of the game late in the third quarter with a 14-6 run after the score was tied 70-70. At the end of the third, Lopez tossed in his first career 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds on the clock, giving Brooklyn an 84-76 lead.
With the Nets' lead at 14 points, Watson missed a fast-break dunk attempt, then Evans and Wallace each missed two free throws.
"It was a great basketball game. Killer," Carlesimo said. "We need to focus on Monday. We made some mistakes and had some tough calls go against us. We just have to focus ahead and not talk about things we could have done."
There were some fireworks in the second quarter when Robinson and Watson got into a minor scuffle. Watson played for the Bulls the last two seasons, but the two were never teammates. For some reason, they've been jawing all series.
At the 7:13 mark of the second quarter, Robinson was guarding Watson aggressively near midcourt and appeared to get hit with an elbow. Robinson responded by pushing Watson into the scorer's table as players on both sides pulled them apart. After watching video replays, the referees called a personal foul against Robinson and technical fouls on both players.
NOTES: Brooklyn guard Johnson said he felt better than expected on Friday, after playing 41 minutes on a sore left foot. Johnson received a cortisone shot before the game. ... Thibodeau said before Saturday's game that Noah's minutes would be in the 25-to-30 range. Noah, playing despite plantar fasciitis in his right foot, played 25 minutes in Game 2 and 27 minutes in Game 3. ... When the Bulls scored 33 points in the second quarter on Saturday, it was the first time they scored 30 points in a quarter during any of their eight games against Brooklyn this season. ... The Nets shot 21.4 percent from 3-point range (9-for-42) in Games 2 and 3, then went 9 for 24 on Saturday.