Bulls grind out win over Magic
The Chicago Bulls (24-10) return home to the United Center to take on the Orlando Magic (7-30). Bulls are boosted by the return of Lonzo Ball and Alfonzo McKinnie, as well as head coach Billy Donovan after they all finally cleared protocols. Magic come in after a loss last night to the Boston Celtics and are missing a lot of players due to injury, a constant theme for them this season. Bulls fans will be hoping that this game is over and done with well before the final buzzer after DeMar DeRozan's back to back buzzer beaters. A few hours before tipoff, DeMar was named Eastern Conference player of the week for the 2nd time this season!
1st quarter - A slow start for the Bulls (0-6 FGs) see's the Magic go on an 8-0 run, 8:46 left on the clock before free throws from DeRozan gets the Bulls' first 2 points of the game. Bulls finish the quarter down 21-15 after a buzzer beater from Coby White is ruled not in time. Story of the quarter is the Bulls poor offence:
1-9 3's (Ayo Dosunmu)
Towards the end of the quarter Bulls looked to be starting to hit shots, they'll hope to continue into the second.
2nd Quarter - Bulls come out a lot hotter in this quarter and narrow the lead to 1 after 3 minutes of play. 1st lead (27-26) after 4 minutes. Bulls see out the half leading 45-40, a poor game from the offence thus far:
6-18 3s (33.4%)
DeRozan 15pts 6-14 FGs
4-12 3s (33.4%)
Carter Jr 10pts 5-8 FGs
Bulls only using 8 players in the 1st half, Coby White, Troy Brown Jr and Ayo Dosunmu coming off the bench to try and bring some offensive help.
3rd quarter - The theme of the game continues with both teams continuing a pretty poor offensive showing. A bucket by Nikola Vucevic with 4:35 left gave him 1000 points as a Bull which up to this point has been the highlight for the offence. Through 3 periods the Bulls "BIG 3" go:
DeMar DeRozan: 21 pts
Zach LaVine: 18 pts
Nikola Vucevic: 9 pts, 13 reb, 2 stl, 2 blk
4th quarter - Bulls will certainly be hoping to put this one to bed as early as they can but the Magic just seem to be hanging around so far. With 3:40 left the Bulls lead by 3, we can't have another tense finish can we? After a foul on a 3 by Lonzo Ball, the Magic are down 2 with 20 seconds left. Why do Bulls do this to us? A flagrant foul by RJ Hampton with 12 seconds left and Bulls up by 2 gives DeRozan 2 FTs (split) and Bulls a crucial possession. Bulls win 98- 102 and it's the 22nd time this season LaVine and DeRozan have 20+ points together.
Another game that feels like a trap game for the Bulls, looks like a guaranteed W on paper but they were certainly made to work hard for everything by this Magic team. Bulls will take the W and takes them to 25-10 for the season as well as an 8 game win streak (their 1st since March 2012). LaVine (27pts) and DeRozan (29pts) continue to get it done for Bulls as well as Nikola Vucevic, who had another double double (13pts, 17 rebs) and is certainly adding to his claim for an All-Star spot this season. Coby White after going back to the bench came up big again going 7-11 for 17 pts FG (10 pts in 4th).
Bulls now have 3 days off before taking on the Wizards again on Friday so they'll look to rest and regroup a little bit after some tired looking performances.
-Matt H (Twitter:@matthearn1)