A game after being outplayed and lacking the necessary energy in the fourth quarter, the Bulls stepped up their play in the final quarter on Tuesday and outscored the Orlando Magic 31-23 in the final 12 minutes for a 99-93 win at the United Center.
“We were kind of pissed [about Saturday],” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. “We need to knock teams out even when they’re short-handed. Not give them confidence. Last game, we allowed different guys confidence late and it hurt us in the fourth. Once the guys on the bench saw the game, we knew what we had to do coming in.
“We just played with a lot of confidence. We were looking for each other and guys made big shots. Just playing with a lot of energy, taking the looks when we get them, not hesitating and getting stops on D.”
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau turned to a hodgepodge of players to achieve that on Tuesday, too. For much of the quarter, starters Joakim Noah and Luol Deng were paired with backups Nate Robinson, Jimmy Butler and Gibson.
The group began with a 70-68 deficit and slowly started pushing the score the other way thanks to its defense -- the Magic shot 9-of-24 in the quarter -- and its own hot shooting (12-of-21 from the field).
“The guys we had in, Taj and Jimmy, gave us a big lift,” said Thibodeau, whose team improved to 3-1. “Nate was also really good out there. I thought in the second half we played a lot harder.”
Everyone in the group contributed in their own way during the run. Deng had eight of his 23 points and four rebounds in the quarter. Noah had seven points and three blocks. Robinson and Gibson had seven points apiece. Robinson also had five assists. Butler had two points and two rebounds.
“We just fed off each other,” Gibson said. “Guys kept encouraging each other, telling each other to take the looks, don’t worry about the crowd. Just dig in, just dig in, it’s going to go our way eventually. Play hard. I’m happy to get this win.”
Robinson also was motivated by the energy in the building.
“I just try to feed off the crowd, get the crowd involved in the game, getting us hyped,” Robinson said. “The ball finds energy. It finds positive energy and knows where to go. Today, it bounced off everybody and everybody contributed.”
Butler echoed his teammates.
“It’s crazy when I look around and see Taj yelling and Jo yelling and see Nate and [Carlos Boozer] from the bench,” Butler said. “It’s lifting to know all the energy was into it on defense, not only offense.”