The Bulls were in Orlando for the last game of a six-game road trip on Sunday evening, trying to build off their most lopsided victory in two years the night before. This was the Magic's second game under interim coach James Borrego since a 10-game losing streak cost Jacque Vaughn his job. The Bulls were trying to avenge an embarrassing 121-114 home defeat to the Magic last month, a loss at the heart of Chicago's worst stretch of the season.
The Bulls came out playing like a team that wanted to get another blowout win and start the trip home early. Chicago led by 16 at one point in the second quarter, but the Magic battled back to cut the deficit to five by halftime. The game was decided by a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
The Bulls were down six points with 32 seconds left. Then the following happened.
- Jimmy Butler stole the ball from Victor Oladipo and started to race down the court. Tobias Harris wrapped him up and the Magic were whistled for a clear path foul. Butler made both free throws.
- On the ensuing possession, Derrick Rose hit a three-pointer unguarded from the top of the key and the Magic lead was down to one.
- The Magic inbounded the ball on the sideline and Rose and Joakim Noah trapped Orlando's Evan Fournier at halfcourt.Fournier stepped back court and the Bulls got the ball back with 15 seconds left.
- Rose drove left and missed a floater, but Pau Gasol got the offensive rebound and slammed the ball the ball in. The Bulls were up by one.
- Orlando had one last chance, and they went to Nikola Vucevic on Gasol in the post. Vucevic missed and Tobias Harris' putbuck attempt missed, too. The Bulls won, somehow, 98-97.
The Bulls should have lost this game, and it was going to hurt. The offense didn't score from the 4:30 mark in the fourth quarter until Butler was gifted the pair of free throws. Gasol closed the game over Taj Gibson and Orlando attacked him. This had the makings for an angry post-game thread, and then Orlando choked it away.
There were some encouraging signs. Jimmy Butler was everywhere on both ends. He suffered an apparent shoulder injury near halftime, but came back even better in the second half to finish with 27 points, six steals and five assists on 9-of-16 shooting. Joakim Noah looked good too, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds in 37 minutes. Gasol put up another gaudy statline, finishing with 25 points, 15 rebounds and four assists.
Rose struggled for most of the night before hitting that three in the clutch, shooting only 4-of-14 from the floor. On the plus side, Tony Snell looked playable again, adding eight points in the Bulls' first game without Kirk Hinrich.
The Bulls go home now for games against Kings and Cavs this week. The positive momentum from that Pelicans win ... might have carried over? I don't really know.