ORLANDO (AP) –Carlos Boozer had a season-high 31 points and 11 rebounds, Luol Deng scored 23 points and the Chicago Bulls hung on to beat the Orlando Magic 96-94 on Wednesday night.
Taj Gibson added 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulls, who played without center Joakim Noah. Chicago was outrebounded 37-34 in Noah’s absence but exploited an injury-plagued Magic front court, outscoring them 42-32 in the paint.
Jameer Nelson missed a leaning jumper in the closing seconds that would have tied it, sending Orlando to its seventh straight loss overall and fifth in a row at home.
Nelson returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sore hip and scored a season-high 32 points. Nik Vucevic finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Arron Afflalo added 19 points for the Magic.
Despite missing Noah, who sat out fighting flu-like symptoms, the Bulls did get back guard Kirk Hinrich after he missed a game with a sore left knee. Hinrich’s shooting ability and ball handling allowed them to spread the court and get some easy looks inside against the smaller Magic lineup.
Taking advantage of the absence of Magic forward Glen Davis, and a tender Gustavo Ayon (sore thigh), Chicago’s starting frontcourt of Deng, Boozer and Gibson outscored their Magic counterparts 75-30.
The Bulls led by as many as 18 in the third quarter before a 13-6 run by the Magic trimmed it to 82-71 entering the fourth.
Despite its size disadvantage, Orlando held its own on the boards and stayed close down the stretch.
Nelson scored five straight points to cut the deficit to six and Vucevic dropped in back-to-back layups that trimmed it to 86-84 with 5:12 left.
Two shaky Magic possessions and a turnover allowed the Bulls to respond with eight straight points, pushing the lead to 94-84.
J.J. Redick hit a 3-pointer and a Vucevic got a dunk to give Orlando life, and following a Bulls miss, Redick found Afflalo, who swished a 3-pointer from the corner to cut it to 94-92 with 46.3 seconds on the clock.
The Bulls came up empty on their ensuing possession, and Gibson blocked a Nelson layup attempt out of bounds with only 11.3 remaining. Nelson then found a lane to the basket, but put up an off-balance, leaning floater that bounced off the rim.
Deng rebounded the miss and knocked down two free throws with 4.2 left to secure the win.
The Bulls’ starting frontcourt held a 37-15 scoring advantage over the Magic in the first half, helping the Bulls build a 54-46 halftime lead. Boozer was the most active, scoring 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting. The Bulls also held a 20-14 edge on points in the paint.
Both teams shot above 50 percent in the half, with the Magic connecting on 21 of their 38 shots. Afflalo was particularly hot, scoring a team-high 11 points.
Notes: Vucevic’s double-double was his 14th of the season. … Bulls F Vladimir Radmanovic missed his third consecutive game with flu-like symptoms. … Magic G E’Twaun Moore sat out his third straight game with a sprained left elbow.
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