Wednesday, May 18 2022

10 observations: Bulls slam door on Magic with late rally originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The Chicago Bulls suffered one of their worst defeats of the season in Orlando on Jan. 23: A 114-95 loss at the hands of the league-worst Magic.

Despite some tense moments, they allowed no such repeat Tuesday at the United Center, beating the Magic (11-41) 126-115 to move to 32-18 on the season – and regain sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference.

Here are 10 observations:

1. Another night, another shootout for the Bulls, as should be expected while they trudge on without Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. The Magic entered play with the NBA’s 28th-rated offense, but shot 49.5 percent from the field and posted 115 points. It’s the fifth game in a row – and 10th time in their last 11 contests – the Bulls have allowed their opponent to score 100-plus points.

2. But give the shorthanded Bulls credit for this: They bent but didn’t break, and won this game with end-of-quarter spurts. They closed the final 52 seconds of the first quarter with an 8-0 run to flip a 33-26 deficit to a 34-33 advantage; they won the final 69 seconds of the second 7-2 to expand a 63-61 lead to 70-63; and they finished the final 2 minutes, 3 seconds of the third quarter on a 6-0 run – then tacked on another four that in the first 61 seconds of the fourth – to go from ahead 97-94 to 107-94.

3. The Magic didn’t go away. In a span of roughly 90 game seconds, the visitors turned a 113-103 deficit into a tie game in the middle of the fourth quarter. With 5 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in regulation, the sides were knotted 115-115.

But a driving Zach LaVine layup opened the floodgates of an 11-0 Bulls run in the final 3 minutes, 35 seconds. A DeMar DeRozan midrange fallaway, two Ayo Dosunumu jump-shots and two Nikola Vučević free throws comprised the scoring. And they strung together nine consecutive stops in the last 4 minutes, 52 seconds.
 
4. Dosunmu’s buckets – a 17-foot pull-up to make it 121-115, then a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to make it 124-115 – were the daggers, and got him enveloped in a hug from DeRozan as the Magic whistled for a timeout with 1 minute, 46 seconds to play.

Not only did Dosunmu shoot 3-for-5 for 3 en route to 13 points, he also handed out nine dimes – against one turnover – in 36 minutes to raise his assist average to 6.5, and drop his turnover average to 1.8, in 10 games since entering the starting lineup. His floor game is ever-improving in a lead ball-handling role, and the knack for big plays he’s had since high school continues to translate to the pro level.

“I would probably say the passing,” Dosunmu said in a telling moment when asked to choose his favorite aspect of his performance, between his playmaking, defense and big shot-making. “I enjoy that. I love getting my teammates easy shots. That’s fun.”

5. DeRozan put on another masterful midrange display, drilling seven of his eight shot attempts between the paint and 3-point line on his way to 29 points on 12-for-20 shooting (he also drew two and-ones from on midrange pull-ups). Between that and his five assists, he was the engine behind each of the aforementioned late-quarter runs, as evidenced by his game-high +15 plus-minus.

6. LaVine, who scored 26 points and showed signs of snapping out of his post-knee-soreness shooting slump by going 8-for-17 from the field and 2-for-5 from 3, led the Bulls with eight free-throw attempts, and converted all of them. The charity stripe was a massive swing statistic in the game. The Bulls visited the foul line 29 times, making 23, compared to 9-for-11 for Orlando.

7. Vučević kept his recent offensive surge rolling – and again did his damage inside the 3-point arc. He registered his 27th double-double of the season with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and despite going 0-for-5 from 3-point range, shot 8-for-12 inside the arc and a combined 6-for-6 at the rim (3-for-3) and from the midrange (3-for-3). He’s now shooting 83.3 percent at the rim and 57.1 percent from the midrange in his last five games, averaging 20.6 points.

8. After providing a productive 16 minutes against Portland, Tony Bradley once again got the first look at backup center. But it didn’t last long. After four minutes – and a sequence in which Bradley was scored over by Moe Wagner, then committed an illegal screen at the other end – Donovan turned to Tyler Cook for a shot of energy.

The calculation paid off. Cook tossed home a layup, threw down a dunk and swatted a shot in two first-half minutes, completely changing the verve of the second quarter after the Magic briefly pulled ahead – so much so that the Bulls were plus-five in Cook’s minutes at the break. He added four rebounds and two free throws in the second half to finish with six points, five boards and a block in eight minutes.

9. Neither team committed more than 10 turnovers, but this was an up and down affair, nonetheless. Orlando won the fastbreak points battle 21-19, and sprinted out to a number of quick buckets in the mid-fourth quarter spurt that made the game tense. Donovan chalked that stretch up more to offensive stagnance than defensive leakiness.

10. Wendell Carter Jr. loves playing the Bulls. He entered play averaging 21.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in four games since the trade that sent him to Orlando, and made his five first shots in this one on his way to 11 first-quarter points. By game’s end, he led the Magic in scoring with 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting, and added eight rebounds and six assists. Franz Wagner (22) and Cole Anthony (20) also joined him above the 20-point threshold.

Next up for the Bulls: At the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

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Source: Yahoo Sports

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