Young, athletic teams like the Orlando Magic are usually the types of teams which give the Bulls a ton of trouble. It's no secret that the Bulls -- while talented -- don't have many high-end athletes. The Magic, on the other hand, are chock full of dudes who are probably better athletes than they are basketball players at this point. In time, one would think this'll change cause our old pal Scott Skiles is kind of a master at grooming and refining teams. But as for the present day, the Magic are still a work in progress. And it was nonetheless encouraging seeing the Bulls take care of business, leading pretty much throughout the entire game, and beating the Magic 92-87.
Last year, the Magic handed the Bulls one of their worst losses of the season, a 121-114 loss in late January. Victor Oladipo had a career night, Nikola Vucevic was unstoppable. It the classic case of the Bulls underestimating their opponent. And even though the Bulls and Magic split their season series 2-2 last year, the Magic just knew how to play the Bulls tough. Which is why, in the grand scheme of things, tonight's definitely a quality win.
It wasn't anything overpowering or overwhelming tonight, the Bulls just played pretty much a mistake-free basketball game for three quarters. Then, you know, the fourth quarter. Ugh. Scoring 17 points in a quarter is never acceptable, nonetheless in the game's most important 12 minutes. They allowed the Magic to go on a 14-0 run. The defense down the stretch was particularly bad. Just a horrible quarter, and the Bulls are certainly fortunate to have escaped with a win.
But, in fairness, the Bulls playing really well for three quarters afforded them one clunker quarter. Derrick Rose stayed aggressive, playing more of a facilitator role. For the majority of the game he had more assists and rebounds than points, finishing with eight, seven and six respectively. Orlando's Elfrid Payton is a blossoming defensive standout, but I thought Rose was pretty much unbothered by him, which is a good sign.
This actually would've been an interesting game to tinker with the starting lineups for Freg Hoiberg. At this point, it's painfully obvious Pau Gasol -- who finished with 16 points and eight rebounds -- can't guard Nikola Vucevic. Although we're not even a week into the season, if Hoiberg really wanted to get experimental, this would've been an ideal game to attempt something different. No harm no foul, though.
And speaking of different, it looks like Doug McDermott's going to stick with the whole making shots thing. It's pretty neat. Doug was the spark off the bench tonight, showing his entire offensive arsenal on 12 points in 17 minutes. He drilled a couple trey bombs, finished pretty nicely around the rim on flip shots and layups. He and Noah had an awesome backdoor connection for a layup, which is something worth noting cause it seems the two of them have definitely developed some good chemistry.
As for Jo, this was probably his best game of the season. Best of all, he finally made a free throw! Two, actually! But in seriousness, Noah's legit got a little Rondo-syndrome going on, where it's like he completely forgot how to shoot free throws altogether. It's beyond odd. Noah did have some decent lift tonight, though. That's really all I look at when watching Jo these days -- his jumping ability.
On a team level, the defense was pretty darn good. All night they disrupted Orlando's timing and they ended up forcing 17 Orlando turnovers. I liked how the Bulls went under every Elfrid Payton screen-and-roll (as they should have!) and how they even doubled Vucevic from time-to-time. And Jimmy Butler's just out there making plays, man. Tonight he stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, five assists, four rebounds, four steals and two blocks. But on the whole, aside from late lapses, the Bulls should feel optimistic regarding their performance on defense tonight.
Moving forward, the Bulls play in Charlotte on Tuesday and then come back home for a sure-to-be-amazing bout with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Seeing Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head is something we've all needed and been deprived of. I seriously can't wait for that game Thursday night. But as for tonight, good-but-not-great win. Lots of things need to be corrected and fixed, but it's still early! 3-1 is a start no one can complain about.