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 the Bulls coach was forced to watch the game at home as a spectator, Donovan’s furniture came close to joining him in the health and safety protocol.
“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 on Monday, discussing both of DeRozan’s two game winners. “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 for the coach to get a game in which late-game heroics weren’t needed.
Not a pretty win against Orlando at the United Center, but still a 102-98 win.
The eighth straight for the Bulls, which was their longest winning streak since March of 2012, and also a win that 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 to win. Now did we play well overall, no.”
Not only was Donovan back, but so was starting point guard Lonzo Ball.
Call it a rough re-entry for both.
Like they have now in three-straight games, the Bulls didn’t exactly come out of the gate looking like the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Whether it was all the moving parts that have been in and out of the lineup or simply that time of the year when the schedule just catches up with a team, it was once again lethargic moments, but more on the offensive end.
It had been the defense that was concerning Donovan while he was absent.
The Bulls spotted Orlando an 8-0 lead, and didn’t score until there was 8:46 left in that first quarter and 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? Orlando finished shooting 33.3% from the field, while the Bulls were even worse at 23.8% (5-for-21), including 1-of-9 from three.
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 of the game.
A lead they built to five going into the locker room.
In a second half in which it felt like the Bulls would eventually pull away and put the 7-31 Magic in their rightful place, it never really got to that point. The Bulls seemed to control the third and fourth quarters, but never dominated the visiting team.
“When you have guys in and out there’s going to be slippage,” Donovan said.
DeRozan led the Bulls with 29 points, followed by LaVine’s 27. Coby White again had a solid performance, coming off the bench and putting up 17 points, and Nikola Vucevic continued his double-double tear, scoring 13 points with 17 rebounds. Ball shot just 1-for-8, and looked rusty.
Thankfully for the Bulls, they will now have three off days to rest and get some practice time in, hosting the Wizards on Friday.
“We can’t be satisfied with anything,” DeRozan said of Monday’s game. “We’re on a win streak, but we’re not satisfied with none of that.”