Bulls pummel Magic 112-94 — the latest example that times are changing

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Denzel Valentine drops a slick dime to Nikola Mirotic during the third quarter of the Bulls’ blowout victory over the Magic. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Raise your hands if you think the Cavaliers are impressed by the Bulls’ seven-game winning streak. Think the Celtics have even caught wind of it yet? Think the Bucks aren’t itching for a chance at payback against a Bulls team that went up to Milwaukee last Friday and had the audacity to steal a victory?

The Bulls have indeed won seven in a row, for the first time since December of 2014. They’ve rewritten the story of their season in the process, going from 3-20 irrelevance to 10-20 hope.


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Hope of the playoffs? No, of course not. Rather, hope of watchable basketball — good basketball — in the weeks, months and years to come.

The days to come are a different story. They look daunting, maybe even bleak. After beating the Magic to a pulp 112-94 Wednesday at the United Center, the Bulls were off to Cleveland for — back-to-back you very much — a seemingly certain streak buster on Thursday. From there, the Bulls go to Boston, home of the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics, and on to Milwaukee.

Altogether, a pretty nasty three-game road trip. Good luck with that winning streak, fellas.

But you know what? Seven straight “Ws” — the longest streak under third-year coach Fred Hoiberg — holds up no matter what as mighty impressive.

“I’m sure a lot of people didn’t think we could do this,” center Robin Lopez said.

Really, though, it’s less about wins and losses than it is about how the Bulls are playing. It’s about all the things they’ve been doing well: lighting up the scoreboard, forcing and scoring off turnovers, shooting far better from the field in December (47.3 percent) than they did in October and November (41 percent).

The Bulls also have gotten a string of high-impact performances off their bench, thanks in no small part to training-camp combatants Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic — who, Monday against the 76ers, became the first teammates in the NBA this season to record double-doubles off the bench in a game and the first Bulls teammates to record points-rebounds double-doubles off the bench in the same game since 1973.

“It’s great for our guys to be able to go out and perform the way they are right now,” Hoiberg said. “Hopefully, they can keep it up.”

The Bulls got what they wanted, when they wanted it against the Magic, shooting 50 percent, dishing out 31 assists and topping 100 points for the seventh straight games — after reaching triple digits only eight times in their first 23 outings. And how does 54 points off the bench sound?

They repeatedly beat the Magic downcourt during the third quarter, when the game became a blowout. Lauri Markkanen outsprinted Nikola Vucevic for a dunk and a three-point play. Denzel Valentine finished back-to-back breaks with slick assists to Mirotic. When Valentine raced downcourt to finish an easy feed from Justin Holiday, the Bulls had a 25-7 spree on their hands.

And they took turns leading the way as ball-sharers, with Kris Dunn, Jerian Grant, Holiday and Valentine all rewarding teammates in what seemed like turnstile fashion.

“I loved the balance of tonight’s game,” Hoiberg said. “I thought we had a lot of guys who were contributors, but the thing that pleases you most is the unselfishness.”

An eight-game winning streak would be the Bulls’ first in six seasons. A nine-gamer would be their first in seven seasons. A double-figures streak? That hasn’t happened since Michael Jordan’s last season in Chicago.

Whoa, we’ve spun out of control. There was more good stuff Wednesday, and a lot of it. But it’s about to get a whole lot harder.

Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

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