ORLANDOSans Derrick Rose, the Bulls continue to find different methods to win, but Monday nights rout of the Magic was a return to a familiar formula. Well, Carlos Boozer also played a major role in the 85-59 victory at the Amway Center, but a stifling effort on the defensive endnot to mention timely scoring from new fan favorite John Lucas III early and lateone that set a new franchise mark for holding opponents to the fewest points in a regular-season game, earned Tom Thibodeau his 100th victory, setting an NBA record for being the head coach to accomplish the feat the fastest.
After starting the contest on the wrong end of a 5-0 run, the Bulls (38-10) got their act together quickly, using ball movement and sharp cuts to the basket to reap easy scoring opportunities.
Boozer (24 points, 13 rebounds) was the visitors offensive focal point, but in addition to scoring, the power forward also displayed his underrated passing ability and rebounding prowess in the early going.
Orlando (29-18) recovered from the Bulls onslaught and bounced back, going to newly re-committed All-Star center Dwight Howard (18 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots)the subject of intense trade speculation at the deadline before informing the Magic of his decision to return for another seasonon the interior for high-percentage shots.
However, their guests struck back behind reserve point guard John Lucas III (20 points), who drained a trio of long bombs to help the Bulls take a 22-14 lead after a quarter of play.
Chicagos Bench Mob, with starter Luol Deng (14 points) also in the mix, maintained the momentum at the outset of the second period, as Omer Asiks interior defense, Taj Gibsons work on the glass and Dengs all-around talents kept the Magic off balance and allowed the gap between the teams to swell to double digits.
Upon Boozers reinsertion to the gamealong with Noah, in place of Gibson and Asikthe much-maligned big man went to work once again and with the Bulls transition game clicking, the defense forcing turnovers and stellar ball movement, the visitors remained in firm control.
Magic face-up power forward Ryan Anderson stretched the defense with his outside marksmanship and point guard Jameer Nelson, a former All-Star, overcame some early struggles to briefly spark the hosts, but as has become commonplace, the guests simply increased their defensive intensity and made adjustments to counter those developments.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the floor, Boozer and Deng continued to excel, assisting the Bulls in taking a 48-33 advantage into the intermission in front of a dissatisfied Orlando crowd.
The games pace slowed a bit after the break, but the Bulls continued to have the edge in the contest, mostly due to their stout defensethough two Howard interior baskets, sandwiched by an Anderson putback, raised Thibodeaus ire enough for him to call a timeout, in order to refocus his squadas both teams initially had issues scoring the ball.
Orlando chipped away at the deficit, briefly making it a single-digit affair and getting the home fans back into the game.
Boozer, however, had other plans, knocking down his mid-range jumper with remarkable accuracy and again, combined with the Bulls intense defense, ensuring the lead ballooned enough to become a comfortable winning margin, following a 6-0 spurt.
Though the close of the period evened out a bit, the visitors maintained a 60-48 edge through three quarters of play.
The final stanza began as a defensive battle, with each team not giving an inch, yet unable to score proficiently, meaning each basket was that much more crucial and magnifying the importance of the diminutive Lucas high-arcing pull-up jumper over Howard, the three-time reigning league Defensive Player of the Year.
A thunderous Joakim Noah dunk over Glen Big Baby Davis, plus the foul and ensuing free throw raised the Bulls lead to 20 points and although Nelson knocked down a three-pointer on the subsequent possession, the damage was done.
Lucas, though, wasnt done putting the finishing touches on the road win, as his instant-offense scoring was even appreciated by the Magics fans, who had long begun to exit the arena.
Noah, after being mostly dormant throughout the night, also got his offense going late and by the time the contest wound down, the only question was if the Bulls would set a new mark for holding opponents to the fewest points in a regular-season game, which they did, eclipsing the mark set against Milwaukee in 1997.