CHICAGO (AP)—For one of the few times in a long season, Juwan Howard walked off the court with something to smile about.
The victory snapped a 13-game losing skid for the Magic in a game that paired the teams with the two worst records in the NBA. Orlando hadn’t won since a March 10 victory over Washington.
“We could have easily tanked it and threw in the towel, but we didn’t,” Howard said. “I have always been taught to fight through adversity, and sure enough, it’s been a frustrating year for us.”
Howard, guarded by smaller defenders all game, hit a jump hook and a pair of jumpers during a 13-0 run in the third quarter that gave the Magic 66-47 lead. He had eight in a row in the fourth to put the game away after Chicago cut its deficit to eight.
Already playing without big men Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler, the Bulls lost Antonio Davis early in the first quarter with a sprained right knee. Davis was injured when Andrew DeClercq came down on his right ankle while going for a rebound.
“You have to take advantage of that because they’re missing their strong presence inside,” Howard said. “We had to expose that, and my teammates and I took advantage of the opportunity.”
Fizer was one of the few players keeping the Bulls in the game.
He scored six in a row to get the Bulls within single digits in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points and a career-high 20 rebounds.
Fizer said he hadn’t started at center since his college days. When the Bulls lost Davis, he knew he’d have to provide the bulk of the rebounding and interior scoring.
“I was not going to allow myself to be flat and lackadaisical. We owe the fans at least that,” Fizer said. “I knew it was going to be a long night.”
For the Magic, it was a rare good night.
“We finally won a game. It seems like its been ages since we were victorious when the clock ran out,” Orlando coach Johnny Davis said. “They were short on people tonight, but no one feels sorry for you in this business.”
This could have been the last chance for Chicago fans to see Fizer and Crawford in Bulls uniforms. Both are restricted free agents, and a roster shakeup is expected in the offseason.
Both Crawford and Fizer said they want to return.
“There’s no question about that,” Fizer said. “I love the city. I love the organization, the fans. This is the organization that brought me to this league.”
The Bulls and Magic will face off again next month for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery. The Magic will have a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick, and their selection can fall no lower than fifth. The second-worst teamhas a 20 percent shot at picking first.
Scottie Pippen, sidelined most of the season by knee problems, said he didn’t know whether would return for another season. He has one year left on his contract with the Bulls. “I will try to work toward my knee getting better. I don’t know quite yet what I’m going to do,” he said. … The Magic beat Chicago for the first time this season after dropping the first three in the series. … Curry missed the game with a bruised left knee. … Chicago was third in the league in attendance despite another disappointing season. Davis addressed the crowd before the game, telling them, “We want to thank you. Weknow we haven’t given you a lot to cheer about.”