Playing for the first time since Saturday night, the Orlando Magic kicked off their final home stand of the season with a matchup against the playoff-bound Chicago Bulls. The two teams fought tooth and nail late, before the Magic pulled it out, winning 105-103.
With Derrick Rose returning to the lineup, the Bulls came out strong, attacking the Magic on both ends of the floor. Chicago's offense flowed throughout the quarter, with the visitors notching seven assists on 10 field goals. Chicago's defense also frustrated the Magic's offense, forcing five turnovers, turning those into 11 points. With both Willie Green and Luke Ridnour out, the Magic were lucky to have Evan Fournier return after being out since February 25th with a hip injury. Fournier knocked down his only shot of the quarter, and was expected to play in five-to-six minute spurts according to coach James Borrego. Pau Gasol led the Bulls with six, while Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with eight after one.
After a shaky start, things got worse for the Magic early in the second quarter. The Bulls continued to impose their will, pushing their lead to as many as 15 before the Magic began to claw their way back. Behind strong play from their starting backcourt of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, the Magic cut the Bulls lead down to as few as three before Chicago pushed it back down to seven thanks to a three-pointer from Jimmy Butler late in the half. Payton put back a big tip slam dunk over Taj Gibson, breathing life into a seemingly lifeless Magic bunch. Butler and Gibson led all scorers at the half, each scoring 11 for the leading Bulls. Payton, Vucevic and Oladipo all had 10 to lead the Magic, with Payton and Oladipo both in potential range of a triple-double, with seven rebounds and three assists and five rebounds and four assists respectively.
Out of halftime, the Magic looked energized on both ends of the floor, fighting back to take the lead multiple times late in the quarter. Orlando's trio of Payton-Oladipo-Vucevic continued to give the team strong minutes whenever on the floor, single handedly keeping the team in the game. With the Magic up 77-75, it seemed as though the momentum was beginning to shift into the hosts favor. However, a 12-2 run to close the quarter by the Bulls made things look bleak for the suddenly struggling Magic. Vucevic did much of the heavy lifting on the offensive end, pushing his total to a game high 20 through three. Butler's 17 led the way for the visiting Bulls.
Down six heading into the final quarter, the Magic held the Bulls scoreless for over three minutes in the quarter, cutting the lead down to four in the process. However, despite the Bulls struggles to get anything going, the Magic weren't able to capitalize, with the lead holding in the four-to-six point range. Looking for a boost, coach James Borrego turned to rookie Aaron Gordon, along with Fournier, to try to get the Magic back into it. After a three pointer by Fournier cut the Bulls lead to two, the sides traded baskets before Gordon forced a shot clock violation. On the ensuing possession, Fournier grabbed his own long rebound and drove in for a layup.
Nikola Miortic answered Fournier's big basket, knocking down a three to give the Bulls a three-point lead with just over two minutes remaining. Oladipo wove his way through the defense to a layup, then forced a missed jumper from Butler. With Payton, Gordon and Oladipo pushing it, Oladipo was found by Gordon for an open corner three, which he knocked down to give the Magic a two point lead with a minute and a half remaining. Out of a Bulls timeout, Pau Gasol rolled down the lane, scoring while getting fouled by Vucevic. Gasol missed the freebie, with the Magic capitalizing off a jumper from the rookie Gordon.
Fournier missed an open three, with the Bulls grabbing the rebound for a chance to tie it up. The Magic got a stop, but the ball trickled out of bounds off of Vucevic on the rebound attempt, giving the Bulls a chance to tie it once again with 11.3 remaining. Gasol was fouled, and calmly stepped to the line and knocked down the pair, giving the Magic a chance to win it with 6.5 seconds remaining. Out of the timeout, Oladipo drove through the Bulls defense, finishing to give the Magic a two point lead with 1.5 seconds remaining. The Bulls were unable to score, giving the Magic their third straight victory.
Four Magic men finished in double figures, led by Oladipo's 23. Vucevic finished with 22 on the night. Payton finished one rebound and one assist shy of a triple-double, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. In his return, Fournier finished with 11 off the bench,
Butler led five Bulls in double figures, finishing with 19. Gasol, Gibson and Mirotic all finished with 15, with Aaron Brooks adding 13.