This game was really refreshing to watch after much of what we've seen from the Bulls facing bad teams lately. While they've had their thrilling wins over the likes of Miami and New York, we've also seen a lot of losses against Eastern Conference lottery teams. But tonight in Orlando the Bulls had a nice, calming, blow-outty 102-84 win.
The big news was that both Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson returned after re-injuring their earlier injuries (more here on that from Jay). Both played limited minutes, battling some fouling issues and a general lack of offensive rhythm but it was not a discouraging outing from either. Gibson especially seemed to look a lot more comfortable as the game went on. The key will be hearing how they feel after the game and tomorrow, as getting them back in the rotation is a huge thing heading into the playoffs. I'd hope that with these games not really mattering so much that they wouldn't even think of bringing them back unless they were truly close to getting healthy.
This was a good one to get them back into action, as the Magic offered little resistance all night. They have this tanking thing down pat: play young players, sit your veterans, have enough moments to get people temporarily excited but really give yourselves little chance to win. Though Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Moe Harkless were by far the Magic's high scorers, it was also part of an atrocious defensive effort overall from the Magic. The first quarter showed a tighter margin as they did a good job attacking Carlos Boozer, but the game got away from them in a 28-14 second quarter deficit which saw several 24-second violations (and sloppy turnovers/shots throughout by both teams, really).
The Bulls meanwhile shot 54% from the field in that first half, and a sparkling 5-6 from three-point range. Kirk Hinrich had three of them in that half (and was 4-6 overall on his way to a 14 point night with plenty of grit plays sprinkled in there), and then Marco Belinelli started the second with two of his own as the Bulls lead surged to 20. It was kind of pointless viewing from there.
Though not everyone played great (Rip was pretty bad and often frustrated, Nate had 5 turnovers to 2 points) but this was ultimately a laugher. Hopefully nobody got hurt, or re-hurt, and they can close out the season with another similarly easy time out.