Dwight Howard had 29 points and 18 rebounds, and the Magic built up a big lead early before holding on for a 99-94 victory over the Bulls Thursday at the United Center.
The Magic simply couldn't miss a shot in the first 12:00, hitting 13 of their first 16 before finishing the first quarter shooting 75% (15/20) overall and from behind the arc (6-8).
The 37 points were the most the Bulls have allowed in a first quarter all season. The 2nd quarter wasn't much better for the Bulls, as they still trailed by 12-18 points for most of the stanza. When Howard scored off of an alley-oop from Turkoglu with 1:59 left in the half, the Magic led 57-42.
But the Bulls then made a quick push to get back into the game. Rose hit a giant-killer, Noah tipped in a Boozer miss, and Deng and Rose hit back-to-back three-pointers to allow the Bulls to go into halftime trailing by only five points.
The third quarter was much of the same, with the Magic nursing a small lead until Boozer's jumper with 4:35 left gave the Bulls their first lead of the game.
Jason Richardson closed the quarter hitting back-to-back 3-pointers, and the Magic led 79-71 heading to the final period.
John Lucas III hit a 3 to cut the lead to 84-82 with 8:21 to play, and neither team led by more than three until the final minute. Ryan Anderson hit a 3 to break a 91-91 tie with 1:27 left.
Unfortunately, on the next possession, Boozer missed a 17-footer and after Deng grabbed the offensive rebound, Rose missed a three that would have tied the game. Anderson then sank a pair from the line to put the Magic up by five with 45.7 seconds remaining, and the game was over after that.
The Bulls actually played quite well after the first quarter, holding the Magic to 30.4% shooting overall and 27.8% from behind the arc over the final three quarters. Unfortunately, outside of Boozer none of the Bulls starters had even a decent night offensively, and despite the great defense they just didn't have enough scoring to win the game.
The Bulls' starters, outside of Boozer, combined to go 11/41 (26.8%) from the floor. Korver missed several wide-open 3's and finished the night 3/10 from the field and 1/7 behind the arc.
JL3 had another nice game off the bench, helping out with five assists and no turnovers in only 11:33 of playing time. And Gibson hit 6/7 FG to finish with 14 points.
Rose had another horrible shooting night, following up his 8/22 in Milwaukee with a 6/22 vs the Magic. The difference is that he shot 14 free throws in Milwaukee, but only four against the Magic. Deng was 1/9 from the field, 1/5 from behind the arc.
Noah had another solid all-around game, barely missing another double-double with 9 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocked shots.
This wasn't a horrible game for the Bulls, take out the first quarter and they probably win. But they didn't defend real well early, and the Magic couldn't miss a shot, and the 17-point defecit was too much to overcome when Rose goes 6/22.