Bench steps up as Magic rout Bulls, make playoffs

ORLANDO, Fla. -- On the board in the Orlando Magic locker room, the first of six season goals marked down is to make the playoffs.

Time to check that one off.

Tony Battie had 18 points and eight rebounds, and the Magic got a big boost from the bench to clinch a playoff spot with a 107-79 win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night.

"Not that it's been in doubt for any time, but I'm one of those until you do it, it's not done," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of making the postseason berth official. "The first goal on our board. That part is done. You know you're going to be playing when the season is done. Quite honestly, it's a good feeling."

J.J. Redick had 13 points, and Marcin Gortat added 13 points and 15 rebounds in reserve for the Magic, who have won five of their last six games and moved closer to taking another Southeast Division title.

They'll need to make some big steps to reach any of their other five goals: win the division, clinch home court, win 60 games, have the East's top record and be playing at their best when the playoffs start.

Getting performances from their big men like they did against the Bulls was a good start.

"It was a strong night for the bigs," said the 33-year old Battie.

John Salmons had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Brad Miller added 11 points for Chicago, which shot a mere 31.4 percent from the floor and had 16 turnovers.

"There are nights like that," Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. "It is kind of bizarre and you can't get anything going."

The Bulls (29-36), stuck in a back-and-forth battle with Milwaukee and New Jersey for the East's final playoff spot, will have to work out plenty of kinks to stay in the hunt.

The Magic made a flurry of jumpers in a 19-5 run that gave them a 23-point lead midway through the third quarter. The outburst continued, with Battie hitting a rare 3-pointer as time expired in the third quarter to put the Magic ahead 85-53.

"Everything we were doing was real difficult," Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We didn't bring the energy. We didn't make any shots. We shot so poorly."

With the game in hand, Orlando wasn't done feasting.

On one play during the spurt, Salmons dived into the first row trying to save the ball, tumbling over a few fans sitting courtside. Magic guard Rafer Alston helped one fan out after the play by picking up his popcorn -- then Alston ate a handful, smiled and hustled downcourt.

"Got to have fun with the fans," Alston said.

Securing a playoff berth has been a formality for more than a month for the Magic. And they'll almost surely lock up a second consecutive Southeast title in the next few weeks, having started the day with a 10½ game lead over Atlanta.

Orlando will need to find a consistent groove to contend with Cleveland and Boston for home-court advantage in the East. The Magic (47-17) started Wednesday four games behind the first-place Cavaliers.

It was Orlando's big men -- and not so much All-Star Dwight Howard -- who gave the Bulls fits.

After Howard sat with his second foul midway through the first quarter, Gortat and Battie kept the Bulls out of sync. Gortat had eight points and five rebounds in the period, fueling an 11-2 run that gave the Magic a 26-13 lead.

And after Howard was called for his third foul in the second quarter, Battie scored 10 points in the period to give the Magic bench a much-needed lift. The Bulls perhaps took the Magic's reserve centers to lightly, and the big men made them pay.

"I really don't care if they respect me or not," Gortat said. "I'm just going to try to punish them and do my job. If that was one of the reasons why, if they disrespected me today, that was one of the reasons they lost."

Chicago, fresh off a devastating double-overtime loss at Miami on Monday, simply came out flat. Missing layups and clanking uncontested jumpers, the Bulls shot just 21.1 percent from the floor in the opening quarter. They would find their rhythm only in spurts.

Salmons' layup capped 10 straight points by Chicago to tighten Orlando's lead. But the Magic would respond with a 13-2 run to go ahead 48-36 at the break behind sharp-shooting Redick, who had 11 points off the bench in the half.

Game notes
Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu missed the game with a lower foot injury he suffered in the team's loss at Detroit on Monday. He is day to day. Mickael Pietrus started in his place ... Del Negro took his team bowling on Tuesday to give them a break from practice. He said it was also an attempt to "get the spirits and energy up and get away from things a little bit and have some fun" after Monday's loss at Miami. ... Bulls forward Luol Deng missed his fifth straight game with a hairline fracture in his right leg. He is expected to sit out at least two more weeks.