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Coach Billy Donovan returns to see Bulls win eighth straight

The victory against the 7-31 Magic on Monday wasn’t pretty, but at least the Bulls didn’t need any heroics at the buzzer by DeMar DeRozan for a change. Now Donovan is hoping to get his team rested and refocused with three days off.

Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan, right, celebrates with guard Coby White on Monday night.
Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan, right, celebrates with guard Coby White on Monday night.
Nam Y. Huh/AP

Bulls coach Billy Donovan felt just fine the last week.

His coffee table?

Still to be determined.

Thanks to an emotional roller coaster of DeMar DeRozan buzzer-beaters while Donovan was forced to watch the games at home as a spectator, his furniture came close to joining him in the health and safety protocols.

“Well, the first one in Indiana, I didn’t even know if we were going to get a shot up, the one-legged, because I thought the clock was going to run out,’’ Donovan said Monday. “The second one [against the Wizards], I fell over the coffee table. I jumped up. I couldn’t believe the shot out of the corner.

“The two shots were really, really, really remarkable.’’

So with Donovan returning after a five-game absence, it was nice to get a game in which late-game heroics weren’t necessary.

It wasn’t a pretty 102-98 victory against the Magic at the United Center but it counts, and it was their eighth in a row.

It’s their longest winning streak since March 2012, and the victory kept them atop the Eastern Conference by two games at 25-10.

“I thought physically our guys gave everything they had,’’ Donovan said. “Defensively, that’s what I was more focused on. This was a game to me that if we didn’t defend, we’d have a hard time winning. Now did we play well overall? No.’’

Along with Donovan, starting point guard Lonzo Ball also was back.

Call it a rough re-entry for both.

The Bulls didn’t exactly come out of the gate looking like the top seed in the East. Whether it was because of all the parts that have been in and out of the lineup or simply because it’s that time of the season when the schedule just catches up with a team, it was another game full of lethargic moments, especially on the offensive end.

The defense had been Donovan’s concern while he was absent.

The Bulls spotted Orlando an 8-0 lead and didn’t score until the 8:46 mark in the first quarter after DeRozan hit a free throw. Neither team was particularly sharp, but the Magic did build the lead to 11 until the Bulls reeled them in.

How ugly was that first quarter? Orlando shot 33.3% from the field, while the Bulls were even worse at 23.8% (5-for-21), including 1-for-9 from three-point range.

There was only so much hocus-pocus Orlando could muster, however, and while the second quarter still wasn’t a thing of beauty, the Bulls flexed enough muscle to take the lead. With 8:04 left until the half, Derrick Jones Jr.’s tip-in gave the Bulls their first lead.

They built the lead to five at the half.

In the second half, it seemed like the Bulls would eventually pull away and put the 7-31 Magic in their rightful place, but it never really got to that point. The Bulls seemed to control the third and fourth quarters but never dominated the Magic.

“When you have guys in and out, there’s going to be slippage,’’ Donovan said.

DeRozan led the Bulls with 29 points, and Zach LaVine had 27. Coby White had another solid performance, coming off the bench and scoring 17 points, and Nikola Vucevic continued his double-double tear with 13 points and 17 rebounds. Ball shot only 1-for-8 and looked rusty.

Thankfully for the Bulls, they’ll have three days off to rest and get some practice time in before they host the Wizards on Friday.