Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/2/13
ORLANDO -- Even without their starting center, the Chicago Bulls looked like bullies around the basket Wednesday night. The Bulls got 75 points combined from their three front-court starters -- including a season-high 31 points from power forward Carlos Boozer -- to outmuscle the Orlando Magic, 96-94. Taj Gibson, starting in place of center Joakim Noah, had a season-high 21 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots, including one against Jameer Nelson with 11 seconds remaining that could have tied the game. Forward Luol Deng had 23 points, including the final two free throws with four seconds left to secure the victory. The Bulls outscored the Magic 42-32 from inside the lane. The Magic, without power forward Glen Davis inside, offered little resistance around the basket. "That's just our style of play," Boozer said. "We're aggressive around the basket. And we were resilient at the end. Taj just had a monster game for us." Gibson was making his first start of the season while Noah watched the game from the locker room with the flu. It was the seventh consecutive loss for the Magic (12-20). Nelson matched his career high with 32 points for the Magic, but he missed two shots in the last 11 seconds, one of those being the shot blocked by Gibson. "At the end of the day, it's a physical game. You have to meet your opponent's physicality head on and try to be more physical than they are," said Magic Coach Jacque Vaughn. "It's just a physical game. That's it." Magic center Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and 12 rebounds, recovering well after a poor first half. Rookie power forward Andrew Nicholson was little help around the basket, finishing with six points and four rebounds. The Bulls led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter. Although the Magic never led in the second half, they closed to within two points three different times. The Bulls were coming off an embarrassing performance Monday night in Chicago when they trailed from start to finish against the lowly Charlotte Bobcats, who snapped an 18-game losing streak. "You've got to have toughness," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "You've got to win games different ways. Our primary scorers got their shots tonight." After trailing 94-84, the Magic rallied to close to 94-92. Nelson had his driving layup blocked by Gibson, then he missed another shot with just under six seconds remaining. After Deng made two free throws for the 96-92 lead, Nelson hit a final shot at the buzzer. "This was a good win for us," Gibson said. "I was just trying to do what I can. We were down a lot of guys and banged up. The way we got it done in the last quarter spoke volumes." The Bulls led 54-46 at intermission, riding a fast start by Boozer, who had 17 points in the first half. Gibson had 11 points and seven rebounds in those first two quarters. Vucevic, who had a franchise-record 29 rebounds Monday night, didn't get his first rebound Wednesday until three minutes before halftime. The Magic hit their first six shots, including three by Nelson, and jumped out to a 13-4 lead. The lead slipped away quickly, though, with five first-period turnovers. The Bulls led by as many as 10 points in the first half. Arron Afflalo had 19 points for the Magic, who also were hurt by 12 turnovers. NOTES -- Bulls All-Star guard Derrick Rose, still recovering from his left knee surgery last spring, traveled with the team for the first time this season. This two-game trip will end Friday in Miami. ... Kirk Hinrich, who turned 32 on Wednesday, returned to the active roster after missing Monday's game against Charlotte with a sore left knee. ... Nelson returned after missing the previous two games with a sore hip. The Magic this season are 1-8 without Nelson. "He's a veteran who knows how to run the team," Vaughn said before the game. "Other guys respond to him on the floor. He's the captain. He makes a difference." ... The Magic were without co-captain Davis for the seventh consecutive game because of his sprained left shoulder. They lost all six previous games without Davis.
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