After chaotic finishes in their past two games, the Chicago Bulls returned home hoping for a much less frantic ending against the Orlando Magic. Unfortunately that didn’t turn out to be the case, as the Bulls struggled offensively and let the visitors hang around for all of the game. But as they have all season, the Bulls made plays offensively when needed to hold off the Magic 102-98 for their eight straight win. It was another game where the Bulls struggled and weren’t at their best. Yet like in Indiana and Washington, they found a way to win.
The duo of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine once again led the way with 29 and 27 points respectively. Nikola Vucevic had a double double of 13 points and 17 rebounds. Lonzo Ball returned to the lineup after his protocols absence, and though he struggled to score there was still an impact with seven assists and rebounds.
Chicago shot 43 percent from the field and 35.5 from three, with just 17 team assists. In crunch time, Chicago once again relied on their stars to work solo to find good shots on their own.
Defensively they did a great job of knocking the ball loose as they had 10 steals with Ball having three of them by himself.
The Bulls began this game ice cold from the field, scoring just 10 points in the first 10 minutes and finishing with the quarter with 15. The reason for the offense sputtering was simply due to the Bulls being unable to knock down open shots. It could have been a lot worse at the end of the quarter but Chicago’s defense did their best to halt the Magic to only 21 points.
Chicago started the 2nd quarter much stronger, going on a 10-1 run a couple of minutes into it to take the lead for the first time. With LaVine struggling to start the game, DeMar led the offense and scored seven points in the quarter. However, Orlando didn’t waver and kept the lead to a reasonable distance throughout the half. Gary Harris and Hassani Gravett knocked down two threes in the final minute to keep it at only a five point Bulls lead, 45-40, heading into halftime.
The third followed the same trend as the first two. Chicago would knock down a shot or two to expand the lead to as much as seven multiple times, only for Orlando to respond with some offense of their own. It became increasingly more clear this wasn’t a game where the Bulls were going to just pull away. Chicago struggled to find consistency in this quarter as well, scoring just 24 points. After Vucevic knocked down a jumper to make it a 62-55 game, Terrance Ross went on his own mini scoring run. He scored nine of Orlando’s final eleven points in the quarter and made it just a three point game heading into the fourth.
Chicago again added to their lead to start the fourth, going up by as many as nine now. But the Magic kept cutting down the lead. Wendell Carter Jr. once again played well against his old team while Franz Wagner showed everyone why he was taken so highly in this past years draft. Even though the Bulls got Ball back, they were still missing key defensive guys in Alex Caruso and Javonte Green. Their absences were once again on display as not only did Orlando find driving lanes but also Chicago’s rotations were not crisp enough, allowing open shooters in the corners. The Magic took advantage and were able to stay within striking distance.
But again, Chicago’s big three rose to the occasion. Vucevic, LaVine, and DeRozan scored on consecutive possessions to keep it a five point game. Then after getting the ball at the top of the three-point line, LaVine splashed a step back jumper to make it an eight point lead with just over two minutes left. Coby White hit a turnaround jump shot to keep the lead at eight with under a minute to go and it looked like Chicago was home safe. However there were still some bumps some silly turnovers cut the gap in half within seconds. Fouling a three-point shooter didn’t help matter for the Bulls either. It was a more testy finish than anyone would have liked but DeRozan and LaVine knocked free throws to seal the victory.
LaVine had an okay night efficiency wise shooting just 42 percent from the field but he hit four three-pointers and all seven of his free throws. DeRozan went 11 of 24 shooting the ball but had a rare off night from the charity stripe, missing six attempts. It seemed to have bother him so much that he stayed after the game to practice.
This is why I love @DeMar_DeRozan Post game ,shooting free throws after going 7-13 from the line. Consummate professional. pic.twitter.com/FPWZXXkhug— chuck swirsky (@ctsbulls) January 4, 2022
Getting the start with Green out, DJJ had seven points and five rebounds, knocking down his one attempt from downtown. White was the leader off the bench as he had another solid game offensively with 17 points despite going only two of five from three. Troy Brown Jr. didn’t score but had eight rebounds, four assists, and one huge block to end the first half. Ayo Dosunmu struggled to score too and took just two shot attempts but like most of the guys coming off the bench, he made up for it with his defense and effort.
Orlando was led by the 22 of Wagner and 21 from WCJ, who notched a double double with 10 rebounds. Harris had 19 points with 15 of them coming off three-pointers. Thanks to his scoring outburst at the end of the third, Ross had 15 points off the bench.
Despite some lackluster performances, the Bulls continue to get victories which is what important. Being able to still get wins even when you aren’t playing well is a sign that all good teams have. Thanks to the Nets and Bucks losing, the Bulls have expanded their lead at the top of the Eastern Conference. They now have a much needed break before welcoming the Wizards to the UC on Friday.