By Jason Langendorf
For the Sun-Times
Coach Fred Hoiberg, who had been prodding his team to rediscover the ball movement and hustle that had led to a 3-0 start, was rewarded Monday at the United Center.
The Bulls ran, cut, swung and stroked their way to a 112-80 victory against the Orlando Magic.
They ended their three-game skid, and Jimmy Butler led five Bulls in double figures with 20 points. Dwyane Wade and Taj Gibson had 16 points apiece. Aaron Gordon scored 15 to pace the Magic, whose winning streak was halted at three.
Hoiberg had been vexed by the Bulls’ recent trend of creaking out of the gate, and they weren’t exactly spry at the start against the Magic (3-4).
They got shots up early in possessions, but it seemed almost out obligation. The ball was slow to move, as were the players. Worse, Orlando was getting in the paint and victimizing the Bulls (4-3) with the transition hustle Hoiberg had been demanding of his players. Hoiberg called timeout midway through the first quarter with the Magic leading 20-16 to deliver a message.
“The message was to pick it up, start guarding, make it uncomfortable,” Hoiberg said. “They were just zipping that thing wherever they wanted to. And then we got some of the subs in, we picked up, got into them, underneath them. We denied some passes that threw off the timing. That’s what it was about.”
The energy shifted immediately as reserve guard Isaiah Canaan made a corner three-pointer and finished at the rim on back-to-back possessions to give the Bulls a 27-24 lead with 3:21 left in the first quarter. The Bulls never looked back.
That sparked a 15-2 run to close out the quarter. Wade made a transition dunk and a long two-pointer, Nikola Mirotic sidestepped a closing defender for a three-pointer at the buzzer, and the Bulls led 37-24.
With the Bulls rolling in the third quarter, back-to-back three-point plays from Doug McDermott and Butler lit up the crowd and increased the lead to 86-61.
Butler was electric throughout the quarter, launching after loose balls, being active around the rim and scoring nine of his game-high total.
This performance could serve as a template for how the Bulls will need to play. Despite a poor showing from three-point range (3-for-19), the Bulls hammered the Magic on the boards (56-39), outran them (23-11 advantage on fast-break points) and forced them into nearly twice as many turnovers (14-8).
“Tonight we got back to the things that we’re successful [at],” Wade said. “It didn’t look good at the beginning, but we turned it around.”
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