Following a disappointing loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Chicago Bulls looked to overcome their losing efforts against the Orlando Magic. They did just that by winning a close one in Orlando 96-94.
Joakim Noah and Vladimir Radmanovic were unavailable for this game as they were both out with the flu, but Kirk Hinrich returned to the starting lineup after missing the loss to Charlotte with a bruised knee. Even without their starting center, the Bulls managed to get a victory with the help of Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, and Taj Gibson.
To start off the game, the Bulls lost the opening tip leading to Orlando’s Jameer Nelson to score the first points of the game with a jumper. The Bulls answered with Boozer making a layup. The Magic then quickly found the bottom of the basket making their six straight field goals to lead the Bulls 4-13. But Chicago came back with three consecutive buckets as the Magic could not score. Soon, the game was tied at 15, and the Magic took the first timeout of the game with 5:58 left in the first quarter.
The Bulls grabbed their first lead of the game when Boozer split a pair of free throws to make it 25-24. Chicago kept the lead for the remainder of the quarter, but Orlando did not make it easy. During the last possession of the quarter, the Magic inbounded the ball from the backcourt. Nelson brought the ball up, drove along the baseline towards the bucket, but Hinrich got a block from behind. With 0.3 seconds left in the quarter, the ball was inbounded to J.J. Redick, who attempted a quick three, but missed and could not beat the buzzer. The quarter ended with a close score of 29-28 with the Bulls out on top.
In the start of the second quarter, Nazr Mohammed was fouled and connected on a pair of free throws. On the Bulls’ net offensive play, Gibson attempted a layup, grabbed his miss, and finished with a putback, giving Chicago their biggest lead of 33-28.
The score remained relatively close for a good while until Nate Robinson hit back-to-back threes giving the Bulls a five-point lead of 43-38. Soon afterwards, Orlando took a timeout with 4:13 left in the first half. From then on, Chicago’s lead continued to grow. Marco Belinelli, Hinrich, and Boozer each got some shots to go in. The Magic were held to just 18 points in the second quarter as the Bulls finished out the first half in the lead, 54-46.
During the third quarter, Chicago continued to thrive on the offensive end. Boozer, Deng, and Gibson kept scoring with ease. The Bulls got their first points of the second half when Boozer made a hook shot. After that, Gibson collected an offensive rebound and drew a foul. He followed up by hitting a pair of free throws. Then, Hamilton kept Gibson’s offensive flow going by feeding him for a dunk. Deng chipped in as well. The dunk was prior to Deng cutting through the lane to get the layup off a pass from Boozer. And it went on from there for the big men. Their combined offense allowed for a 11-point Bulls lead at the end of the third quarter, 82-71.
That lead soon became a thing of the past when Chicago lost their offense. The Bulls only scored two points just over halfway through the quarter. At the same time, the Magic rediscovered their offense going on an 11-2 run. And suddenly the Bulls’ lead had been cut down to two points.
Once the lead had been cut down, Deng hit Gibson for yet another dunk. That play seemed to get Chicago’s offense going again, and eventually, the lead had gone back to 10 points. But the Magic went on another run. This time it was an 8-0 run, and the lead went back to two points. Deng came through in the end hitting a clutch pair of free throws making it 96-92, Bulls. The game ended soon after following a layup by Nelson, but Chicago still came out with the win, 96-94.
Boozer led the way with 31 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Deng added 23 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Another large contribution came from Gibson, who had a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds to go with 4 blocks and 3 assists. This win gives the Bulls a record of 17-13. Their next game will be on Friday, January 4 at 7:00 PM CT against the Miami Heat.