Playing without Derrick Rose (groin) for the fourth consecutive game, the Chicago Bulls rolled to an easy 85-59 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday night at Amway Center. The Bulls improved to 38-10 this season, which remained good for the best record in the NBA.
The Bulls placed three players in double figures against the Magic (25-19). Carlos Boozer put up one of his best performances of the season, dropping 24 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 12-for-18 from the field in 34 minutes of action. John Lucas III shined again on national TV, scoring 20 points and draining four three-pointers as the Bulls outscored the Magic by 25 points when he was on the court. Luol Deng struggled from the field again – 1-for-4 from three-point range and 5-for-13 overall – but still managed to score 14 and play a game-high 43 minutes, which is nothing new for the versatile small forward. Joakim Noah added nine points, six rebounds and five assists and defended Dwight Howard just about as well as a center can, limiting the Magic’s big man to 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Both teams got off to strong offensive starts, with the Bulls taking a 12-9 lead just over five minutes into the first quarter. Then, the Magic went on a 5-0 run while the visitors’ offense struggled and went scoreless for the next three minutes, 19 seconds. But the Bulls closed out the opening frame on a 10-0 run, as Lucas, the first point guard off the bench for coach Tom Thibodeau, was feeling it from the outset and drained three straight three-pointers to give Chicago a 22-14 lead through one quarter of play. Behind crisp ball movement, strong rebounding and suffocating defense, the Bulls took a 48-33 lead at halftime, when Howard had just eight points.
Although the offense slowed down for both teams in the second half, the Bulls took their defense to higher level. The Magic had just 26 points in the final 24 minutes and weren’t able to get anything easy against the Bulls’ defense. Even though Thibodeau’s bunch was minus their leader and reigning league MVP, Rose, they showed, yet again, that they can do all the little things to win. For the second straight contest, it wasn’t pretty, but the Bulls were more than happy to come out on top in convincing fashion.
The Magic shot just 35.3 percent from the field and missed 16-of-20 three-pointers. After losing to Orlando two weeks ago, the Bulls had revenge on their mind and badly wanted to win Monday evening. They’ve repeatedly proven this season that they’re an extremely dangerous team when they have a chip on their shoulder – not to mention the fact that players have stepped up when needed. On this night, it was Lucas, who even drained two jumpers over Howard and garnered a lot of praise from TNT commentator and former NBA star Chris Webber, while Boozer had another big-time outing against the Magic.
The win marked Thibodeau’s 100th, meaning that the reigning Coach of the Year is the fastest coach to reach that plateau in NBA history. Fittingly, the defensive-minded Bulls set a franchise record Monday for the fewest points allowed in a regular-season game.
Next up, the Bulls have a day off Tuesday before playing the first game of a home-and-home set with the Toronto Raptors (15-30) on Wednesday night at Air Canada Centre.