For the Orlando Magic, 2018 couldn’t have ended much worse. The plucky but shorthanded squad suffered a 125-100 loss at the hands of the struggling Charlotte Hornets on December 31st, but quickly resolved to come back stronger in 2019 with a commanding 112-84 win over the Bulls in Chicago.
In most cases, a win over the 10-28 Bulls shouldn’t be a cause for celebration, but for a Magic team that was sitting at 1-1 in the season series with a -4 point differential overall, this game was a chance to exhale.
Mostly, that feeling of relief came because of the offense, which caught fire in Wednesday night’s game. The Magic were sitting at No. 27 in the league with an offensive rating of 105.9 coming into the contest, but they got it going to the tune of 58 percent shooting from the floor and 43 percent from beyond the arc against the Bulls.
The Magic played a very balanced all-around game, and nearly every player had a highlight of their own – the most electrifying of which may have been this suffocating block by rookie Mo Bamba.
Bamba wasn’t the only center who made an impact, as veteran starter Nikola Vucevic led the game in scoring (22) and rebounding (12) while notching a team-high +22 plus/minus while he was on the floor. This was the Montenegrin big man’s eighteenth 20-10 game this season, and he feasted on the Bulls’ inexperienced frontcourt.
Interior dominance would be the theme of the evening as Aaron Gordon, another young big, set his career-high with nine assists, falling just one assist and three rebounds short of his first ever triple-double. He also poured in 18 points.
The wing duo of Evan Fournier and Terrence Ross played well off of each other, shooting a combined 11-of-19 from the floor and a blazing 6-of-10 from three-point range. Fournier showed off his offensive versatility by dishing out seven assists, which trailed only point guard D.J. Augustin for best on the team.
After this convincing win, Orlando moves to 1-0 in the new year, and 17-20 overall. Hopefully, this momentum will carry over as the Magic face another brutal West Coast road trip ahead. They play the Timberwolves, Clippers, Kings, and Jazz in their next four, all of whom are right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.