Nikola Vucevic posterizes Pau Gasol as Magic stun Bulls

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  • Pau Gasol
    Pau Gasol
    Spanish basketball player
  • Nikola Vucevic
    Nikola Vucevic
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Hey, come on, Nikola Vucevic. Pau Gasol's an absurdly nice man — the kind of man who releases books of inspirational photography, parties on Sesame Street, wins citizenship awards, takes teammates to the opera and routinely brightens everyone's day 140 characters at a time. You really shouldn't be this mean to him:

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That jab step, followed by that confident lefty drive, followed by cocking the hammer and throwing down that vicious one-handed facial, all capped by the ball doinking Pau on the noggin and both players hitting the deck ... my goodness, Mr. Vucevic. (And yes, I think we have to call him "Mr." after that, lest we suffer the same fate as Pau.)

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel called the bench's reaction "perhaps the [Orlando Magic] players' most exuberant reaction in two and a half years," which, yes, says something about just how rough things have been in Central Florida since trading away Dwight Howard and kickstarting a post-superstar rebuild, but also says an awful lot about just how earth-shaking a baptism Gasol received from the Montenegrin center who's developed into the jewel of the Howard trade.

Since joining the Chicago Bulls in free agency this summer, Gasol's been playing a brilliant brand of ball — 18.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.2 blocks per game — that's got him looking like a shoo-in for a starting slot on the Eastern Conference All-Star squadThe Spaniard turned in another stellar offensive game on Monday, scoring a Chicago-high 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting to go with 14 boards in just under 35 minutes. But neither Gasol nor any of his Bulls buddies had any answer for the Magic's stalwart pivot at the United Center on Monday night, as Vucevic torched Tom Thibodeau's typically stout defense for 33 points — one shy of the career high he set on Saturday — on 16-for-24 shooting while adding 11 rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes to pace the Magic to a surprising 121-114 road victory.

Sophomore guard Victor Oladipo also poured in 33 — two off his career high, set just shy of one year ago in a triple-overtime game against these Bulls — on a sterling 11-for-17 mark from the field, with 24 of those points coming after intermission to score an upset that snaps a six-game losing streak and improves Jacque Vaughn's club to 14-27. (Humble as that mark is, it's just 3 1/2 games back of the Brooklyn Nets for the No. 8 seed in the crabs-in-a-barrel Eastern Conference.)

The Magic, who entered Monday with the league's second-least efficient offense (98.4 points per 100 possessions, ahead of only the woeful Philadelphia 76ers), managed a season-high 121 points on blistering 59.3 percent shooting from the floor despite missing injured wing contributors Tobias Harris and Evan Fournier. As impressive as the Magic looked in building a lead that grew as high as 17, the Bulls looked positively disheveled throughout, trailing for the final 45 minutes of the contest as they lost for the third time in four games.

With reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah looking like a hobbled shell of his former self at the moment, Chicago's defense has fallen apart in that stretch, allowing an unsightly 108.3 points per 100 possessions over the past four games. Only the New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves and LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers have been more permissive over their last four contests.

Former MVP Derrick Rose (18 points, seven assists, two rebounds, two steals) was at a loss when asked about the recent slide after the game. Thibodeau, for his part, seems to think it's a matter of choice:

Especially, it seems, when a 7-foot dude in black and blue is bearing down on the basket.

Video via Matt Moore of CBSSports.com.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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