The Magic played much better this season against Nikola Vucevic than they did with him.
Vooch played against the Magic for the first time in a long time and Wendell Carter Jr. returned to Chicago with a clear chip on his shoulder. After the first matchup between the two in the trade deadline revenge game, the scoreboard read: Carter 1, Vucevic 0.
As for the actual scoreboard, that read: Orlando Magic 115, Chicago Bulls 106.
The Magic seemed to solve many of the issues that have been plaguing them during their six-game losing streak as they had an efficient offensive night, made outside shots, rebounded well, scored in the paint, converted second-chance points, played better defensively and simply did things they haven’t done very often this season with or without Vucevic.
The game began in fitting fashion: with Vucevic and Carter trading baskets.
Both got off to quick starts, with Vucevic connecting on all three of his three-point attempts in the first for 9 points, while Carter was active and aggressive at both ends and filled the box score: 4 pts, 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
It was a quarter dominated by newcomers as Gary Harris led the Magic with 8 points in the quarter, hitting a pair of threes.
Donta Hall, with the ink on his 10-day contract barely dry, checked in with just under four minutes left and was perhaps the best big man of all. He did a little bit of everything - from setting quality screens to playing with high energy to cleaning the glass - and sparked a Magic run that helped turn a four-point lead into a 10-point advantage. That stretch was highlighted by Hall’s three-point play on a layup in transition, and then by his hustle play after he deflected a pass to force a turnover and then at the other end followed up R.J. Hampton’s missed layup attempt with a put back to give the Magic a 30-21 lead. Hall finished the quarter with 5 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal.
Instant Impact.— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) April 15, 2021
Donta Hall makin' plays on both ends in his debut. pic.twitter.com/pMNdbVDbPn
The Magic led 32-22 after the first, shooting 56 percent from the field with eight assists and one turnover in the quarter.
The two teams traded baskets in the second as the Magic maintained their lead, with Harris hitting his third three of the game to push the advantage back to 10 at 51-41 with 4:49left. The Bulls then closed the quarter on a 12-3 run as Vucevic, who had been scoreless in the quarter until 1:25remained, scored the final seven points for the Bulls. That was capped by a three at the buzzer to cut the Magic lead to 54-53 heading into the half.
Vooch made all four of his three-point attempts in the half, finishing with 16 points at the break on 6-for-8 shooting. Behind Vucevic and Zach LaVine, who went 3 of 5 from deep, the Bulls made 11 first-half threes on 19 attempts (57.9%).
The Magic also shot 50 percent from deep in the half, making 6 of 12 attempts, half of which came from Harris, who went 3-for-3 and led the Magic with 11 points. Overall in the first half, Orlando shot 54.8 percent from the field, scoring 24 points in the paint.
Carter scored seven quick points in the third, capped by put back dunk after fighting for and winning the offensive rebound over Vooch, and then loudly let the city of Chicago know about it.
The Magic pushed the lead back to double figures when Harris grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked it out to James Ennis, who hit a three to make it 76-66 with 4:19 left.
Threes by Michael Carter-Williams, another by Ennis, and Terrence Ross pushed the lead to 85-70. It would grow to 93-72 by the end of the third as the Magic shot 56 percent in the third to match their season high for points in a quarter with 39 and outscore the Bulls by 20 in the quarter.
LaVine then came to life offensively, powering a 16-3 Bulls run that cut what was a 23-point Magic lead down to single digits after draining a three. Carter responded with a jumper to push the Magic lead back to 104-93 with 5:17 remaining. LaVine answered with another three and then converted a layup to make it a two-possession game at 104-98.
But Harris followed with a driving layup, and then MCW, hobbled by a gruesome-looking rolled ankle earlier in the game, picked off a pass and raced down court all alone for the dunk to put the Magic back up by 10 with 3:12 left.
With the lead down to seven, Ennis knocked down a contested three, his fifth of the game, to seal it.
The Magic, after shooting just 27 percent from three over their six-game losing streak, shot 44.4 percent in this one, connecting on 12 of 27 attempts. A big part of that was Ennis, who made 5 of 6 attempts from deep to finish with a season-high 22-points.
The Magic shot 49.4 percent overall with six players finishing in double figures.
As for the matchup in the middle:
Carter: 19 points, 8-for-16 FG, 0-for-0 3PT FG, 12 rebounds (five offensive), 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block
Vucevic: 29 points, 11-20 FG, 5-for-8 3PT FG, 10 rebounds (one offensive),1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks
The Magic surprisingly outscored the Bulls in the paint, 52-40, and also had the advantage on second-chance points, 21-13.
Harris had 15 points and six assists, MCW had 15 points and 8 rebounds, Ross had 11 points and Anthony had 10. Hall had quite a debut, tallying 7 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. Okeke had nine points but made his presence felt at both ends with plays like this...
Chuma Okeke breaks up the passing lane, pulls in the steal, and goes coast-to-coast for the lay-in! pic.twitter.com/gHHjSxMZtq— RK (@beyondtheRK) April 15, 2021
With the win, the Magic snapped a six-game losing streak and extend the Bulls’ losing streak to four, which has all kinds of implications on the Magic’s lottery odds.
Next up is a matchup with Toronto for another reunion with a former center: Khem Birch.