After their embarrassing effort against Charlotte Tuesday, one may have expected the Magic to redeem themselves with a gallant effort against league-leading Chicago, and indeed they did. After losing an 18 point first half lead in the fourth quarter, Orlando did not crumble and fold up like they inexplicably did against Charlotte. With the score 91-89 Chicago with 2:10 remaining, Jameer Nelson's alley-oop to Dwight Howard tied the game at 91, and after a defensive stop, Ryan Anderson's three pointer was a dagger into the hearts of the Bulls to put the Magic up 94-91. Anderson then converted two free throws for a 96-91 Magic lead, and went on to close out the Bulls out for the 99-94 victory.
Dwight Howard led four Magic players in double figures with 29 points, 18 rebounds, and 3 blocks. His inside defense frustrated Rose, as Rose did not have success at all like he usually does with his penetration to the basket. Jason Richardson scored 18 points, including 4 of 6 on three pointers, before having to leave the game late with an ankle injury after colliding with Nelson. Hedo Turkoglu, after doing absolutely nothing against the Bobcats, redeemed himself with 13 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and a steal with only one turnover in 39 minutes. Anderson, who played only 25 minutes with foul trouble, had 11 points and 10 rebounds, including the huge three late. Nelson added 9 points, 7 assists. J.J. Redick led the reserves with 9 points, despite missing two free throws.
To have had a chance of winning this game, the Magic needed to Howard to have a monster game, which he did. They also needed to hit their three-pointers, which they did at 11 of 26 (42.3%). They needed to compete on the boards with the Bulls, which they did, outrebounding the Bulls 49-40, including 17-15 offensively. They needed to have a decent night free-throw shooting, which they did at 24 of 31 (77.4%). They also needed to prevent the Bulls' Rose from going wild and making big plays like he did the previous night against Milwaukee, and they did, as Rose was a mere mortal in this game, scoring just 17 points with 9 assists on a bad 6 of 22 shooting performance. In fact, the two Bulls' All-Stars, Rose and Luol Deng, combined to score just 22 points on 7 of 31 shooting, with Deng going 1 for 9.
The Magic started out the game on fire leading 8-0, and performed as well as they are capable of in the first quarter. The Magic played with lots of energy both offensively and defensively, and were moving well off the ball on offense, nailing all their open shots. The Magic shot 15 of 20 (75%) in the opening quarter, including 6 of 8 on threes, to lead Chicago 37-22 after one. J-Rich led the Magic with 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting, and Howard had 7 points, 6 rebounds.
The Magic cooled off somewhat in the second quarter, but were still able to maintain and even increase their lead, thanks to 12 points from Howard in the quarter. The Magic led by as much as 42-24 and 52-34, and looked to be in good shape when they held a 57-42 lead with 1:59 remaining after a Howard bucket. It had to be particularly galling to Magic fans how the half ended, though. The Magic did not score again in the half, and after a Deng three-pointer with 23 seconds left, the Magic should have went into the half with no worse than a 57-49 lead. Instead, Bulls' center Joakim Noah stole a Nelson pass, got the ball to Rose, who swished a 26-foot three pointer at the halftime buzzer to get the Bulls to with 57-52. Magic fans had to be saying... well, here we go again... another Magic collapse.
The Magic proved otherwise in the second half. They held Chicago to 42 second half points, with the Bulls shooting just 14 of 43 (32.6%), including an awful 1 of 14 (7.1%) from long range. Bulls' sharpshooting reserve Kyle Korver, who made five threes against the Magic in Orlando earlier this season, was particularly bad, missing five three pointers in the last 4 1/2 minutes of the game.
The Magic led 81-71 with 11:26 remaining in the game after two Turkoglu free throws. The Bulls then made a final charge led by forward Carlos Boozer, who hurt the Magic all night with his 15-19 foot jumpers. He scored 12 fourth quarter points, putting the Bulls ahead 91-89 after a jumper. The Magic then showed what they are made of with their clutch play in the final two minutes.
Other game notes:
-Rose, who hit the game-winning basket in dramatic fashion against Milwaukee the previous night, missed a short bucket with the game tied 91-91, and missed a three-pointer with the Magic ahead 94-91.
-Bulls' center Noah, maybe playing the best basketball of his career, was held to 9 points and 10 rebounds, but had 3 steals and 3 blocks.
-The Bulls shot 8 for 26 (30.8%), including 1 for 10 on threes in the final quarter.
-The Magic, despite shooting 3 of 14 (21.4%) in the fourth, made 13 of 17 free throws in the final frame. Howard, after shooting just 7 of 22 from the line the previous two games, was 7 for 10 at the line for the game.
-The Bulls' reserves combined to score 34 points, with forward Taj Gibson scoring 14 points on 6 of 7 shooting.
-The Magic scored 15 fast-break points, while holding Chicago to just 4 fast-break points.
-The Magic were able to survive 15 turnovers, compared to 7 for Chicago.
Here is the game box score.