On a night where everything seemed to go right for the men in blue, it was easy to overlook Carlos Boozer’s first appearance in a Bulls jersey since being traded from the Jazz this summer.
With Bulls fans anxiously watching to see Boozer’s return from a nagging hand injury, Boozer’s performance was lackluster at best, producing a mere 5 points paired with a couple of boards. Surely not the opening Bulls fans hoped for.
Instead, the night belonged to the Magic.
The Magic (14-4) took a 9-8 lead off a Dwight Howard hook shot at the 8:32 mark in the first quarter and never looked back, holding a commanding lead throughout the rest of the game until the final buzzer with a 107-78 victory over Chicago (9-7). The final score was Orlando’s largest lead of the night.
Staying consistent with recent solid performances, Jameer Nelson shined with 24 points and 9 assists, nearly notching his first double-double since the November 24th win over the Heat. Nelson was red hot on the hardwood tonight, shooting not only 8-11 from the field, but also draining a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. He was flawless at the free throw line, as well.
Vince Carter finished with 22 points, and Brandon Bass came off the bench to pour in 17 points himself.
In the third quarter, Sun Sports play-by-play announcer David Steele highlighted that while the Bulls are the third best rebounding team in the Association, the Magic tonight had more than double Chicago’s rebound total. Orlando finished with a 44-21 rebounding advantage over the Bulls, another example of an emerging “heart and hustle” style of play coming from the Magic.
Furthermore, while the charity stripe has been, well, less than generous for the Magic in recent games, Orlando had no issues with free throws tonight whatsoever. Orlando shot 23-24 from the line, a far cry from the 17-28 free throw clank-fest against Cleveland a few nights ago.
Stan Van Gundy also clearly appeared to be on alert for a potential comeback tonight. After taking a 20+ point lead over Chicago in the third quarter, the Magic allowed the Bulls to narrow the spread to 16 before Van Gundy took a timeout to quell Chicago’s momentum. After early season blown leads to Toronto and Utah, you can never be too careful, I suppose.
The timeout was effective, quickly followed by a pair of Q-Rich three pointers to keep the game out of reach for Chicago.
With this win, Orlando is streaking, winning 9 of their last 10 games. Currently, the Magic are tied with Boston for first place in the Eastern Conference.
The Magic ride a five-game winning streak into Detroit for a Friday night rematch against the Pistons, who Orlando defeated 90-78 Tuesday night.