Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY
Winning can be ugly.
That is something the Magic need to learn with this young team and inexperience winning and closing games. The opportunities to win come rarely and sometimes you need a bit of luck. You certainly need defense. The Magic learned that lesson pretty heavily in the fourth quarter against the Bulls in Chicago.
Chicago erased a 16-point deficit in the second half and charged back into the game, making it a one-posession game in the final moments on a D.J. Augustine 3-pointer off of a questionable Carlos Boozer screen. The Magic struggled to score with just three points in the final five minutes of the game.
Luck plays a factor though.
Luol Deng burned Victor Oladipo on a backdoor cut and got a pretty open layup to tie the game with time winding down in the end. He missed the layup as the lid on the rim refused to budge. Glen Davis hit both free throws making Mike Dunleavy's half-court heave moot. The Magic survived and learned a lesson on winning in an 83-82 win at United Center on Monday.
The big lesson is that defense can keep you in any game. It is truly what needs to be the foundation for the Magic as they continue to build. Offense comes and goes (like it did for Arron Afflalo tonigth), but defense can be a constant.
The Magic have not won a game in which they scored 83 points or fewer since April 2011. Have not held an opponent to worse than 35 percent shooting since the home opener against the Pelicans (and not since Nov. 2012 before then) and have not won a game in which the team shot worse than 40 percent since April 2012.
In other words, this was very uncharted territory for Jacque Vaughn's team and a sign that the team is capable of.
The Bulls shot 34.6 percent from the floor and scored only 10 points off 11 Magic turnovers. Orlando was forcing difficult shots from the outside and from mid-range. They were rotating well to contest shots. It was a great defensive performance. The kind of grin-it-out performance the Bulls are usually known for.
The Magic got off to a bit of a slow start but found some offense in controlling the pace and pushing the ball up the court.
Jameer Nelson was key in doing this, recording 14 points and seven assists. He controlled the game and kept the Bulls on a string. Particularly in the third quarter when Arron Afflalo scored 13 of his 23 points, making all five of his shots and helping to push the Magic further into the lead.
Still there is no denying the Magic blew their lead and let the Bulls climb back into the game. Maybe that is an experience thing with Chicago having players who have made a long career out of winning. The Magic are clearly still learning how to finish.
Nelson missed a layup. Glen Davis missed a few shots. Afflalo missed a few shots. Victor Oladipo missed some makeable shots.
The Magic did not have that one guy the team could go to and get reliable baskets as they lost some of their grip on the lead. That is a key weakness for this team unfortunately. And the Bulls defense is tough to crack anyway.
Chicago cracked Orlando's defense by getting to the line to make 21 of 26 free throws. Some on questionable calls, but fouls nonetheless. The Magic were not getting to the line and that was a huge advantage for the Bulls with the Magic struggling to score.
That is another thing to learn about defensive battles, you have to take the free points when you can get them. And it makes execution all the more important. Every possession matters more.
That is not a lesson you can get in practice. Only one you can get in a game.
Winning takes a bit of practice and the Magic needed this experience to grind out a win in Chicago. The Bulls tested the Magic in every way and nearly stole a win away from the Magic.
There is no such thing as an ugly win though. They all count the same. The lessons though do not.
We will see if the Magic learned anything the next time they are in a position to win an ugly game.