The Chicago Bulls have won two in a row, that's a good thing. They had one of the best and most exciting comebacks in recent memory, also a good thing. The fact they required it against the Magic? Ehh...
I'm not going to try and sugar coat any, the Bulls started off strong and built a huge first quarter lead against the Magic. Then they simply fell apart. The Bulls new look bench didn't perform well together and has little chemistry or minutes playing together.
E'Tuan Moore played 15 minutes and led the bench with five points. Taj Gibson was trotted out there after spraining his ankle yesterday but didn't play well while Nikola Mirotic was saw just three minutes of action.
To pile on to Gibson's poor performance, Aaron Brooks had a poor shooting night while Mirotic saw the court for just three minutes which gave the bench an overall rather pathetic performance.
The Magic had the ball with a six point lead and 57 seconds left in the game. They ran down the clock to 32 seconds when Jimmy Butler intercepted Victor Oladipo's pass. Tobias Harris fouled Butler a fraction of a second too late, as Butler was sprinting by, for the clear path foul.
Butler sinks both free throws, then the Bulls get possession of the ball back. On the ensuing possession they swing the ball around until Derrick Rose is open at the top of the three point line, and he swishes a three. The Magic, in the end, were up six with 33 seconds and the ball, and managed to give up five points on the next possession.
With the Bulls down one and the Magic having possession and 19 seconds, things still seemed fairly bleak. However, the Magic inbound the ball to Evan Fournier a couple of feet from the half court line. Chicago presses him rather than immediately fouling, and Fournier backs up just enough to step on the mid court line before heaving the ball away. Back court violation.
Now the Bulls are down one with the ball, Derrick Rose drives baseline and takes an awkward baseline floater over Nikola Vucevic that misses. The only problem was Vucevic was covering Pau Gasol, and Tobias Harris who had rotated onto Gasol inexplicably fades away from the basket rather than trying to defend Gasol who gets an easy put back dunk.
The Magic get a pretty good look and a pretty good shot at a tap in on their final possession but miss both. Eflrid Payton inexplicably stops playing to whine about the refs not calling a push foul to keep him out of rebounding position with 1-2 seconds left in the game instead of fouling Pau Gasol which would have given the Magic another possession with possibly a second left and a three point deficit.
Given the Magic aren't going anywhere, you'd almost think this was one of the all time great tanking finishes ever. I haven't seen defeat grasped out of the jaws of victory like this since the Knicks gave up eight points to Reggie Miller.
Here's the video:
It wasn't pretty, but I'll take it.
On the night, Pau Gasol was huge for Chicago as was Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah. It was especially nice to see Noah have a quality game as he's struggled for much of the season. If Noah can round into form, the Bulls will start to look a whole lot more dangerous.
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