Another game against the Chicago Bulls, another chance for the Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic to flex his muscle.
After scoring a career-high 43 points to boost the Magic to a 123-119 home win against the Bulls on Friday, Vucevic gets a crack at the Bulls again on Saturday as the teams complete a back-to-back at Amway Center.
Sounds good to his teammates.
“He can’t be stopped right now, so, got to keep the momentum,” Orlando’s James Ennis III said. “Keep playing off of him. (He’s) very unselfish. Just ride with him. He’s going to continue to do what he does.”
Vucevic tallied 13 of the Magic’s first 15 points and swished two key free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining to help Orlando hold off Chicago’s late charge. He was equally clutch in between, going 17-for-29 from the floor, including 4-of-10 from 3-point range, to help the Magic end a four-game losing streak.
“It felt great to have a career high in a win because the last one was a loss,” Vucevic said. “It’s much better when you win because you can enjoy those things more when you win. I’m most happy about the win because I thought we had a great effort from the beginning.”
The 7-footer’s previous career high was 41 points. Vucevic added 19 rebounds for his third consecutive double-double and was bolstered by a balanced attack that included Evan Fournier (20 points), Cole Anthony (17) and Ennis (14).
Orlando was on top 66-56 at halftime and led by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter. Chicago stormed back to tie the game at 114 but was unable to complete the comeback en route to its fifth loss in six games.
While Zach LaVine led the Bulls with 26 points and eight assists, the team benefited from a spark from rookie Patrick Williams, who established a season high with 20 points.
“When he plays like that, I don’t think he understands his strength and his physicality,” LaVine said. “At 19, it’s ridiculous. He’s a monster. He’s going to be a monster. When he plays with that type of intention, it really helps our team.”
Bulls coach Billy Donovan called on LaVine to harness his own tenacity earlier in games.
“Zach’s played well, but for him to be aggressive early in the game — maybe not just scoring and shooting — but playing downhill, we need more of that from him.”
Lauri Markkanen added 13 points for the Bulls, but left the game with a sprained right shoulder. Donovan said Friday it was “unlikely” Markkanen would play Saturday.
Otto Porter Jr. remains sidelined with lower back spasms. He traveled with the team but isn’t expected to play Saturday, either.
“I’d say he’s shut down for the time being,” Donovan said. “He’s getting treatment while he’s here and he’ll do some mobility work. A lot of it will depend on how he responds to all this stuff.”
–Field Level Media