By Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel –
CHICAGO — The Orlando Magic knew they faced a different kind of challenge Tuesday night than they had encountered in their first two games this season. Even without Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls’ physicality and defensive intensity leaves their opponents with little margin for error.
So this wasn’t the time for the Magic to veer away from the unselfish team-ball mentality that had made their offense so successful.
They learned that lesson the hard way. After leading for much of the third quarter and the start of the fourth, the Magic fell, 99-93, to the Bulls in front of an announced sellout crowd of 21,216 at the United Center.
“I think it reinforces how we have to play basketball,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We can’t play one-on-one basketball. When we shared the basketball, we got good looks tonight. When we turn it into a one-on-one contest, we’re not going to get good looks.”
No one seemed to epitomize that statement more than Glen Davis, who had been so effective in the Magic’s first two regular-season games. Davis missed 15 of his 22 shot attempts, and although he finished with 16 points, his inefficiency on the offensive end of the court had consequences.
“There’s no All-Stars on this team,” Davis said. “Any night, anybody can be our star. But at the end of the night, we need to help each other. And tonight, we kind of got away from it a little bit.”
The Bulls (3-1) made it difficult when the Magic (2-1) abandoned Vaughn’s offense, which stresses movement, cutting and sharing the basketball.
Chicago’s rugged frontcourt of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah didn’t give Davis or his teammates much room to operate.
“I thought when we made him play in a crowd, we were effective,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And I thought when we gave him space, he was effective. And he’s hard-playing.”
Davis and his teammates couldn’t be faulted for their effort.
The Bulls jumped out to a 21-13 first-quarter lead as the Magic failed to move the ball, rushed too many shots and gave Boozer and Deng too much space.
But Orlando closed the period on an 11-2 run — a stretch fueled off the bench by J.J. Redick, Josh McRoberts and Ish Smith.
Redick swished a 3-pointer to give the Magic some momentum.
Davis hit a midrange jumper off a pass from Redick, and Nik Vucevic had an easy layup off a pass from Smith to draw Orlando within 21-20.
And the Magic took the lead on a jumper by Redick.
Meanwhile, McRoberts helped stabilize the defense by spelling starter DeQuan Jones at small forward. Even though he’s 6 feet 10, McRoberts is athletic enough to play the position in spurts, and his height seemed to disrupt Deng’s rhythm on jumpers.
The teams produced nine lead changes and two ties during the first half.
Chicago took a 57-54 lead midway through the third quarter on a jumper by Kirk Hinrich.
Once again, it seemed the Magic could crumble.
The Magic seemed to take control of the game when Arron Afflalo, who finished with a game-high 28 points, drew a three-shot shooting foul on Hinrich.
Afflalo’s free-throws put Orlando ahead 66-59 with 3:26 remaining in the third quarter.
But Chicago closed the gap to 70-68 at the end of the period, and then the Bulls opened the final period by making eight of their first 13 shots.
“We’re a young team, but at the same time, we compete, and we were in the ballgame,” Davis said. “We were leading the game the majority of the game. It was a big lesson for us. We learned a lot today.”