Even with one of the league’s top defenses, Coach Tom Thibodeau knew not to take the Magic lightly.
Devoid of All-Star talent, Orlando entered Tuesday’s game having won its first two games by an average of 17 points while leading the league in three-point field goal percentage (.538) and coming in second in scoring (108.5).
“They score the ball easily,” Thibodeau said before the game. “They have a number of guys that have been in big games before. We’re going to have to guard them with a five-man mentality. If you allow them to get going early, they get their confidence going, you’re going to be in for a long night.”
It took all night, in a game that featured four ties and 14 lead changes, but the Bulls were able to stifle the Magic’s offense, winning 99-93.
Luol Deng led the way for Chicago with 23 points and eight rebounds. Joakim Noah finished with 20 points, and Nate Robinson chipped in seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter.
The Magic shot 8-for-19 from three-point range and were led by Aaron Afflalo’s 28 points. E’Twaun Moore added 17 points, while Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds apiece.
The Bulls got off to a quick start, moving the ball and building an eight-point lead towards the end of the period before the Magic closed the first quarter on a 14-4 run and grabbed a 24-23 lead.
The Magic’s hot shooting continued in the second period and they closed the first half on 15-for-27 shooting and led 48-45 at halftime.
The back and forth battle continued throughout the second half before the Bulls grabbed the lead for good after a Nate Robinson jumper put them ahead 72-71 with 9:15 remaining.
The Magic made a late charge, closing their deficit to 93-90 after three-pointers by Afflalo, JJ Redick (10 points) and a jumper by Moore. A Taj Gibson slam plus the foul extended the lead to six with 39 seconds remaining.
A combination of two late Afflalo jumpers and some missed free throws by the Bulls made things interesting, but there simply wasn’t enough time for an upset. But fans were quite unhappy that they wouldn’t be receiving the customary free Big Macs as Noah and Hinrich failed to drain even one of their final three free throw attempts in the closing seconds to top the century mark.