The Bulls Monday kept their playoff hopes extant with arguably their most dominating game of the season at the most crucial time, a 122-75 victory over the Orlando Magic.
The Bulls with ferocious, intense defense and free spirited, timely and acrobatic offense made Orlando disappear after a 14-2 Bulls start. Orlando last led at 2-0. The Bulls led by double digits–and often beyond 30 points–for all but the first three minutes of the game. The Bulls piled it on, leading by more than 40 points for much of the fourth quarter. It was by far the Bulls biggest victory margin of the season.
The Bulls got a terrific team wide performance with six players scoring in double figures, domination on the boards and free wheeling passing for 33 assists.
Robin Lopez had 18 points and eight rebounds. Jerian Grant had 17 points and a career high 11 assists. Jimmy Butler had 17 points and Nikola Mirotic had 16 with three of six threes. Dwyane Wade had 13 points and Bobby Portis had 10 points.
Rajon Rondo was out, though remains day to day and could play Wednesday with his wrist injury. Wade was back in the lineup again after his return in Brooklyn, though his playing time was to be limited to about 20 minutes. Wade came out with an urgency, and so did his teammates as the Bulls jumped on the Magic with aggressive and physical defensive play, active hands on defense, pushing the ball even without Rondo, making the right passes off double teams, helping for one another on defense, eight first quarter assists and 60 percent shooting. It was as good a quarter as the Bulls have played all season, dashing ahead 14-2 to start and pushing it out to a 23-point first quarter lead before 34-13 after one quarter. Six Bulls had at least four points led by Grant with seven. The spirited play continued into the second quarter, albeit with less efficiency. Though Portis finished a tough tipin and flexed his muscles and then added a three on a sharp Wade cross court pass as the Bulls continued to muscle up as well with a 46-23 lead midway through the second quarter. It continued to be a Bulls team so rarely seen, a 31-15 halftime rebounding advantage, 53 percent shooting, six of 13 on threes and 16 assists as the Bulls took a late second quarter 30-point lead and led 64-37 at halftime.
The Magic had a bit of a run to start the third quarter to get within 70-45. But then it was Lopez with a pair of tricky moves inside for scores and Mirotic playing the Rondo role and partnering with Butler for a lob dunk and a fast break dunk after a turnover, the Bulls ahead 83-54 with 3:29 left in the third quarter. Butler continued to rise up over the Magic and Lopez and Grant did the ground work with Lopez’ hook shots and Grant’s jumpers for a 92-59 Bulls domination after three quarters.