There was the hot start led by surprising energy from players no one expected to do anything. There was Nikola Vucevic slipping by Carlos Boozer for an offensive rebound and put back. There was Tobias Harris splitting the double team and going in for an emphatic dunk. There was Maurice Harkless driving to the rim and finishing with authority.
Things seemed so nice.
Then reality kicked in. The Bulls adjusted. The defense tightened. The young Magic could not figure them out. As young teams are likely to do against a dialing in Chicago team. The Bulls were prepping for the Playoffs and going through their paces with deliberateness and focus.
Orlando is not at that level yet. Not in experience and not in skill.
So with the Bulls hitting five of their first seven 3-pointers, they opened up a double digit lead entering the half and expanded it out to 20 for much of the second half. Chicago, always leaning on its defense, never let Orlando make a serious run at the lead and won 102-84 in the season finale at Amway Center on Monday.
Orlando got 20 points from Tobias Harris, 17 points and 14 rebounds (seven offensive boards) from Nikola Vucevic and 16 points from Maurice Harkless. They all did their part. But the Bulls defense closed them off from getting into the lane and getting the easy baskets that gave the Magic the lead in the first quarter.
Chicago's vaunted defense became tough to crack, allowing only 32 points in the middle two quarters. The Bulls shot 56.0 percent from the floor and 9 for 17 from beyond the arc. The made shots were enough to discourage the Magic and build up that lead. Like Saturday night, Chicago continued to make shots even if they were contested.
Orlando simply could not hit it, shooting 41.9 percent from the floor and 2 for 10 from beyond the arc. Those are not shooting numbers that will win games — although a season high 33 free throw attempts and 20 free throw makes certainly would.
The Magic were not able to get consistent offensive attack to keep up. On the defensive end, Orlando struggled to keep up with Chicago's ball movement and motion. The rotation off of double teams were late and the team was a step slow.
Worse still, Orlando committed 17 turnovers that turned into 20 Chicago points. Each Magic mistakes seemed to be magnified by a team able to execute and make things happen on the offensive end. Orlando lacked that spark.
That was the difference between a team preparing for the Playoffs and a team preparing for the lottery and the offseason.