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Bulls 87, Magic 86

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bulls went scoreless for the final 3:50, but managed to play enough defense to hold off Orlando, 87-86, on Friday at the United Center.

With the score tied 78-78, Luol Deng, Vladimir Radmanovic and Nate Robinson knocked down 3-pointers on three straight possessions, giving the Bulls a nine-point lead.

Orlando didn't give up, responding with an 8-0 run and pulling within 87-86 with 1:33 left on a fastbeak dunk by DeQuan Jones.

With a chance to take the lead, the Magic went to Nikola Vucevic in the post, but he had the ball swatted out of his hands by Carlos Boozer. On the other end, Robinson missed a jumper, giving Orlando another chance with 23.8 seconds on the clock.

Beno Udrih tried to make a play, but ended up falling down between three defenders in the lane, turning the ball over. The Bulls managed to play keep away until time expired.

Deng and Robinson led the Bulls with 19 points each, while Kirk Hinrich added 13. Udrih led Orlando with 27 points, but didn't score in the fourth quarter.

The Bulls were playing their fifth game in seven nights and it showed. They shot a pitiful 21.7 percent from the field in the first quarter. Orlando wasn't much better (31.6 percent) and led 19-14 at the end of one.

With both teams struggling to find much offense, one hot hand was all it took to make a difference. Udrih knocked down 6 of 9 shots and scored 18 points in the third quarter, sending Orlando to an eight-point lead.

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau took the drastic step of pulling Hinrich, usually a defensive specialist, off Udrih and using 6-foot-7 Jimmy Butler. That meant when Robinson checked in, he guarded 6-foot-8 Orlando forward Tobias Harris.

Robinson gave the Bulls a much-needed spark by hitting a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer, then opening the fourth with another 3-pointer to bring Chicago within 70-69.

NOTES: The only change in Chicago's injury report came when Thibodeau said before the game he thinks Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis) and Marco Belinelli (abdominal strain) are "very close" to returning. The Bulls are also missing Taj Gibson (left knee sprain) and still are hoping Derrick Rose can make it back from knee surgery before the season ends. Thibodeau said Richard Hamilton (sore back) is the one guy who is not close to coming back. ... For Orlando, Jameer Nelson missed his fourth straight game with a sprained right ankle. Arron Afflalo (hamstring) and Glen Davis (broken left foot) are out for the season. ... The Magic started the night a half-game better than Charlotte in a battle to avoid the league's worst record.
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