Bulls Bigs Grind Out Win in Orlando
After trailing by 18 points, Arron Afflalo’s 3-pointer cut Orlando’s deficit to two with 46.3 seconds remaining. Coach Jacque Vaughn’s men would have a chance to tie or win the ball game with 11.3 seconds left in the contest only to fail once more in crunch time. An off-balanced Nelson shot would doom the white-and-blue as they lost 96-94 in front of their fourth consecutive sold out Amway Center crowd. Orlando is now 12-20 and desperate to relieve themselves of a now 7-game losing streak. Glen Davis’ void continues to grow.
Coach Vaughn on his team’s play: “I feel bad for my guys. They’re playing hard, they’re just not equating to wins yet but we’re going to continue to play hard.”
Jameer returned to the starting lineup after missing a few games with a left hip injury. Nelson ended up tying his career-high of 32 points. The real story though was Chicago’s frontline playing ridiculous basketball tonight. Taj Gibson was one point shy of a new career-high with 21 points. Carlos Boozer powered in a season-high 31 points. Let’s not forget Luol Deng’s twenty-three. Chicago got 75 points from their starting big men. Nikola Vucevic earned his 14th double-double of the season as ‘Vooch’ impressed once more with his 20-point, 12-rebound outing. That’s twice in the past 2 contests that ‘Vucci Mane’ has reached twenty points in his career. Afflalo mustered 19 points. Redick was an atrocious 1-of-8 from 3-point range.
Coach Vaughn on frustrating losses: “This is a great experience for us. The best part about tonight was that there was a stretch in the game where Chicago could’ve broke our spirits and we stayed together.”
Orlando began the evening 6-for-6 from the field, but it didn’t matter as Chicago was able to earn points in the paint with ease even with Joakim Noah with the flu. Both teams shot over sixty-five percent from the field as Chicago held a 29-28 advantage after twelve minutes. Even without Derrick Rose, Chicago is a quality playoff team because of their solid defense and discipline on offense. The entertainment value of the New Year’s Eve contest against Miami was desperately lacking. Orlando trailed 46-54 at halftime as the Bulls were the superior ball distributors.
Coach Vaughn on sitting Harkless 2 straight games: “Maurice has played a lot of games so far this year…as a coach I have to decide mentally and physically where my guys are and take an approach that’s beneficial for their careers, so just a coach’s decisions.”
The 3rd quarter was absolutely grueling to watch and felt like it lasted a lifetime. Gustavo Ayon suited up after missing the Heat game with a right thigh contusion. ‘Goose’ appeared to re-aggravate his injury in the second half. Orlando trailed 82-71 entering the fourth quarter. The final 12 minutes found the Magic giving Chicago a heavy dose of defense. At the 6:08 mark, the Magic only trailed 86-82 as the home side held the Bulls to just four points at that instant. Then in typical Bulls fashion, Chicago would do just enough to escape the City Beautiful with the victory. The Magic host the New York Knicks on Saturday.
Adam Papageorgiou runs Orlando Magic Greek and is a proud MBO contributor.