Returning home after a tough five-game West Coast road trip, the Orlando Magic welcomed the Chicago Bulls to town. What ensued was one of the best games of the season, not just for both teams, but league-wide. The Bulls took down the Magic in a gut-wrenching nail-biter, 128-125 in triple overtime on Wednesday. The loss was the Magic’s ninth straight, and seventh straight to the Bulls in Orlando.
From the start, the game showed flashes of brilliance. Chicago was able to jump out to an early lead, only to see the Magic fight their way back into it in the second quarter. Once 24 minutes of basketball were complete, the Magic were ahead on the scoreboard, carrying a three-point lead into the mid-game break.
The second half saw the Magic start off quick, knocking down shot after shot en route to their biggest lead of the game at 15. However, the Bulls got hot from deep, knocking down what seemed to be endless makes from beyond the arc, knocking down 4 of 5 in the period. The hot shooting continued for both teams into the fourth quarter where they seemingly traded buckets at times, while struggling to score at others.
Chicago continued their torrid shooting from deep, connecting on 4 of 6 from deep in the period. The visiting Bulls held a two-point lead, but were tied up when Jameer Nelson turned up the degree of difficulty, knocking down a step-back jumper over the long Joakim Noah to tie things up. Two jump balls later, and the conference foes were set to start their first period of extra time.
When the clock began in the first overtime, the Bulls started quickly, grabbing a three-point lead thanks to a jumper from Jimmy Butler. The Magic again stayed strong and countered, grabbing the lead back quickly. With time winding down, the Bulls turned to the sharpshooting Mike Dunleavy for a three to tie the game; the shot, a wide-open look from the wing, hit nothing but nylon, tying the game up. The Magic had a chance to win it, but Nelson began the play too late, running out of time before he got his shot off.
The second overtime was rung in with a ferocious dunk from young Bulls wing Tony Snell, who flew through the lane for an emphatic finish between Magic defenders, getting “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd. Orlando answered before Chicago pushed the lead to four. A Nelson three, followed by a Noah layup set the tables for what would ensue. Glen Davis launched three attempts, each of which earned groans and loud “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”s from fans and media alike. The second attempt, however, went in, leading to Davis yelling expletives in a mixture of happiness and anger.
The two already worn down teams went back out for a third and final shot at glory. Both teams, gasping for air and fresh legs for jumpers, looked sluggish from the start of the final overtime period. Again, the Bulls jumped out quick, thanks to a jumper from Snell. Orlando answered, getting the lead up to three before the Bulls closed the game on a 6-0 run to lock up the hard fought win.
Chicago was led by Joakim Noah’s big night. Early on, Noah was be a big presence in the game, grabbing eight of the first 15 potential rebounding opportunities. Noah finished with a season-high 26 points and 19 rebounds to go along with six assists, two steals and two blocks. Carlos Boozer, who didn’t play for the final four periods, finished with 23 points, while guard Jimmy Butler played a whopping 60:20, finishing with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Reserves D.J. Augustin and Tony Snell finished with 19 and 15, respectively, while Mike Dunleavy chipped in 11.
Orlando was led by a handful of season and career performances. Rookie guard Victor Oladipo impressed, scoring 35 and dishing out eight assists. The 35 was a career high, and one of the best performances of the season for the Indiana product. Fellow guard Jameer Nelson dropped a season-high 31, coming just one shy of his career best. Tobias Harris, who admitted he’d been playing through pain in his ankle that cost him much of the early part of the season, finished with 22 points to go along with a team and season-high 16 rebounds. Big men Glen Davis and Kyle O’Quinn rounded out the Magic bunch in double figures, scoring 17 and 12, respectively.
Orlando was yet again playing without center Nikola Vucevic and guard Arron Afflalo, and it showed. They struggled at times to get their offense going and looked in need of guys to give them big contributions. There is no timetable for a return for Vucevic, who is recovering from a concussion, but Afflalo is expected to practice on Thursday and hopefully play on Friday.
The Magic are a very young team, and it shows. Tonight, however, was a step in the right direction for the team after struggling mightily on their road trip. They’ve still got a long way to go, but their loss at the hands of the Bulls was one of their more recent bright points.
Jacque Vaughn On Kyle O’Quinn:
“It was a great night for him. He looked the most comfortable since he’s had on a Magic uniform on both ends of the floor. He was aggressive defensively, whether it was getting blocks or rebounds for us, and then pretty decisive on the offensive end; his ability to make shots and pass the basketball. It was probably one of his better nights as a Magic basketball player.”
Stat of the Night
The Magic picked apart a stout Chicago interior defense, finishing with 60 points in the paint on 30-for-43 shooting.
Featured image courtesy of Be.Futureproof/Flickr.