The Bulls wrapped up their regular-season home slate on Monday night against the Magic, taking care of business and keeping pace with the victorious Raptors with a 108-95 victory. The game was rather sleepy (and sloppy) at times, but the Bulls pulled away late and now we're one win away from the postseason.
It appeared early on that the Bulls were going to make quick work of the Magic, opening up a 17-4 lead thanks to strong starts from Carlos Boozer and Mike Dunleavy. Meanwhile, the Magic were throwing the ball all over the place and looking like the four-win road team that they are. However, the Magic finally started to get their act together, and they went on a 17-4 run of their own to tie the game at 21.
The Bulls controlled the rest of the first half, and they did it with Jimmer Fredette and Tony Snell getting a good amount of run. D.J. Augustin missed the game due to the birth of his second child, so Jimmer was the first point guard off the bench in relief of Kirk Hinrich. Some of the jitters were obvious, and the Magic attempted to put a lot of pressure on Jimmer when he was bringing the ball up the floor.
But while Jimmer struggled with his shot a bit, I thought he had a pretty nice first stint. He was able to create a few good looks for himself, made some nifty moves/passes and also wasn't the disaster I expected him to be on the defensive end. He even took a charge!
Snell entered the game after nearly 18 straight minutes of Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler, and the rookie immediately tried to make his presence felt by trying to dunk on Dewayne Dedmon. It was a huge failure, but the aggressiveness was a nice sign of things to come. Snell knocked down a few jumpers and buried a shot at the end of the first half to give the Bulls a 13-point lead at the break. His nine first-half points matched the amount of points he had in April prior to Monday night.
The third quarter was where things got a bit sleepy, as the Bulls' offense went cold and the Magic went on a bit of a run. The Magic closed to within three points before the Bulls realized what the hell was going on and put an end to that nonsense. The Bulls pushed their lead back out to 11 by the end of the third quarter, and that's when the fun started.
The fourth quarter basically turned into Jimmer Time, with Fredette catching fire and showing some nice chemistry with Joakim Noah. Jimmer finished with 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting in 30 minutes and was a team-high +21. He also gave the fans what they wanted: FREE BIG MACS. Tom Thibodeau went with Jimmer, Snell and Dunleavy for the majority of the fourth quarter, giving Butler and Hinrich some nice rest. Thibs couldn't help himself of course, leaving Noah and Taj Gibson out there until the final minute before finally clearing the rest of the bench.
Dunleavy led the Bulls with 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting, and it was his treys in the third quarter that got Chicago back into a groove after the Magic closed the gap. Noah recorded another near triple-double after a somewhat slow start, putting up 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Snell had 13 points off the bench.
The Bulls wrap up the season in Charlotte against the Bobcats. A win and a Raptors loss to the Knicks means the No. 3 seed and most likely the Wizards in the first round. Anything else means the No. 4 seed and most likely the Nets in the first round.