Chicago Bulls roll past Orlando to stretch win streak to seven
There weren't supposed to be nights like these during the Chicago Bulls' rebuilding season.
This game could correctly be described as a laugher.
With the short-handed Orlando Magic in town, the Bulls jumped out to a 12-0 lead and rolled to their seventh straight victory 112-94 at the United Center.
It was essentially a holiday stadium party, complete with injured Bulls guard Zach LaVine handing out a puppy -- it looked like a beagle -- to a deserving fan during a timeout.
The Bulls' record is 10-20 and they're still a long way from playoff contention. But it's amazing how quickly everything turned from switches and coal to stockings and puppies for the Bulls.
"I'm very happy for (the fans) because I see that people are starting to be very excited about the Bulls," Nikola Mirotic said. "We can feel that in the air. It can't stop now. I know we have a tough schedule. If we continue to play with this level, I'm sure we're going to have our (opportunities)."
Six Bulls scored in double figures, led by Denzel Valentine, who collected his third career double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Mirotic added 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Kris Dunn contributed 15 points and 7 assists.
And, yes, the schedule gets a little tougher now. Not only do they have to play the second leg of a back-to-back in Cleveland on Thursday, games in Boston and Milwaukee follow.
Mirotic has been the confident voice in the locker room, since the Bulls are unbeaten since he returned from injuries suffered in the preseason practice altercation. So what's his prediction for the Cavs game?
"Uh, why not? I mean, why not? We are going there to win, of course," Mirotic said. "I can't promise that we're going to win. The way we've been playing the last seven games has been completely different. We're going to do our best and try to win."
Teammate Bobby Portis backed up Mirotic's Cleveland confidence.
"Yeah, why not? We've always had their number my first two years here," Portis said, referring to the Bulls' 7-1 record against the Cavs in the previous two seasons. "We have to keep it going. We need to use the 12 o'clock rule. Tonight's going to be over at 12 o'clock and start preparing for Cleveland."
It's tough to imagine a team putting less effort into playing defense than the Magic did Wednesday. At one point, Orlando coach Frank Vogel yelled out at his team, "Defend without fouling, one time!" Only to watch in disgust as Valentine, far from the league's quickest guard, drove all the way to the hoop for a lay-in.
The Magic was missing its two leading scorers -- Evan Fournier (ankle sprain) and Aaron Gordon (calf strain), plus one other opening-night starter, Terrence Ross (knee sprain).
But the Bulls kept up with their newfound winning formula: Pick up the pace, keep the ball moving and look for quality shots.
"Does it look fun out there? Yeah, it's been fun," Portis said. "Everybody's out there spacing the floor, shooting the ball, taking good shots, talking on defense, playing together. That's one thing we've always tried to do.
"We don't care about perception. If anybody says something about us, we don't care. We come in every day, work as hard as possible and try to grow together. I think that's a statement to our character, us staying together, and it's been fun to play out there."
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.
Scouting reportBulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, 6 p.m. Thursday
Radio: WLS 890-AM
Outlook: This should be a good test of the Bulls' winning ways, since they'll be playing the second leg of a back-to-back, while the Cavaliers (23-9) have been off since losing at Milwaukee on Tuesday and are 18-2 in their last 20 games. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg went 7-1 against Cleveland in his first two seasons but is 0-2 this year. The Bulls lost in Cleveland 119-112 on Oct. 24 as LeBron James scored 34 points. PF Kevin Love is the Cavs' second-leading scorer at 19.5 ppg. Dwyane Wade is averaging 12.1 points coming off the bench. Derrick Rose and Isaiah Thomas still are out with injuries.
Next: Boston Celtics at TD Garden, 6:30 p.m. Saturday
-- Mike McGraw