Orlando had the final possession, down by a point and got the ball to the guy they wanted. That would be the veteran point guard from Slovenia who scored 18 of his 27 points in the third quarter, willing the Magic back from a deficit and hitting everything within his sights.
Jimmy Butler's length and athelticism helped close that spout in the fourth quarter, but Udrih had one more chance to create. He got the inbound and ran a pick and roll with Nikola Vucevic and dribbled left toward the paint. He spun into traffic and lost his footing. It is arguable whether he was fouled.
Udrih tried to throw up a shot to get the call — no whistle — and the Bulls collected the rebound. Chicago was able to run out the clock as Orlando tried fruitlessly to foul, and a tired Chicago team held on for an 87-86 win at United Center on Friday.
The Bulls defense proved to be as tough as advertised, but the Magic broke through it a few times to come back and take the lead. Orlando was always willing to plug away and keep fighting.
After Udrih had his big run int he third quarter, Nate Robinson went on his run scoring 10 of his 18 points in the beginning of the fourth quarter. That helped the Bulls erase a nine-point deficit in the third quarter and gave the Bulls control over the game. Chicago took a nine-point lead as their offense finally awoke.
It seemed like yet again, the Magic would play well for three quarters only to see the better team by record put the game away late. Luol Deng snapped out of his funk and drained a couple of three points, they were just two of his five makes on the night as he scored 19 points on 18 field goal attempts.
Orlando though rallied together in the final four minutes. After the Bulls took that nine-point lead they did not score the rest of the game. Nate Robinson lost the ball to Doron Lamb as the rookie played some strong defense. Deng missed a layup point blank too. The Magic got some breaks and were in position to take advantage of them.
It all led to the Magic going on an 8-0 run to close the deficit down to one. Nikola Vucevic hit a couple of simple post ups, Tobias Harris made a basket and DeQuan Jones finished with an emphatic dunk to bring Orlando within one.
It is that effort that Jacque Vaughn pointed to at the end of the game while recognizing all the work and learning the team has yet to do. The Magic played a relatively strong game (for their recent play, at least) and defended the Bull swell, forcing Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng into a lot of misses and a lot of difficult shots. For the most part the Magic got what they wanted defensively.
Offensively, the Bulls defense was tough as usual but the Magic found cracks here and there. Udrih had his big quarter and added seven assists. Nikola Vucevic had another double double with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Tobias Harris though struggled, shooting 5 for 17 on his way to 12 points and 11 rebounds.
However, the ending is going to be what gets the focus, and rightfully so. With the pressure ramped up and the chance to take the lead, the Magic were able to get stops but could not execute with the ball in their hands. Udrih turned it over on the last possession and Vucevic turned it over on the one beforehand.
Those opportunities only come around so often. And the Magic now are learning how difficult it is to win games.