CHICAGO – Guard Jimmer Fredette has gotten used to biding his time during three NBA seasons. Fredette joined the Chicago Bulls on March 2, but had not played more than a few garbage minutes with his new team.
Fredette finally got his chance on Monday night at the United Center. Guard D.J. Augustin was not in the building because his wife gave birth to a baby boy. Fredette filled his spot in the rotation and scored 17 points, helping lead Chicago to a 108-95 victory over the Orlando Magic.
“You never know when an opportunity is going to come, so you have to be able to take advantage of it when you get minutes,” Fredette said. “Hopefully I was able to do that tonight.”
Forward Mike Dunleavy led the Bulls (48-33) with 22 points. Center Joakim Noah finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while forward Carlos Boozer also collected a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards.
Chicago struggled in the third quarter, watching a 13-point halftime lead drop to 67-64 after Orlando rookie Victor Oladipo drained a 3-pointer. That’s when Fredette checked back in, filling Augustin’s usual slot in the rotation. With Fredette on the floor, the Bulls finished the quarter with a 14-6 run to carry an 11-point lead into the fourth.
“To me, you judge your point guard on how the team functions,” Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought he did a great job with that. I thought his ball pressure was very good, so that’s encouraging.”
This was the Bulls’ final regular season home game, but their playoff future remains unsettled. Chicago and Toronto remain tied for third place in the Eastern Conference. If it stays that way, the Raptors will get the No. 3 seed by virtue of being a division champion. If Toronto loses at New York on Wednesday, while the Bulls win at Charlotte, Chicago would get the No. 3 seed.
Forward Kyle O’Quinn led Orlando (23-58) with 20 points, while forward Andrew Nicholson scored 19 and guard Arron Afflalo had 13.
“We had a lot of first-half turnovers,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We talked about that at halftime and said we have to make simple, solid plays. Give the Bulls defense credit for a lot of that, though. We’re a young team that has to learn how to be patient and get to our second and third options during possessions.”
Early on, it looked like the Bulls might run away with this one. They jumped to a 17-4 lead, hitting eight of nine shots from the field after missing their first three. Orlando came right back and tied the score at 21-21 on a pair of free throws with just under a minute left in the first quarter.
Chicago controlled the second quarter behind nine points by rookie forward Tony Snell. His high-arching jumper at the buzzer gave the Bulls a 57-44 advantage at halftime.
Thibodeau appreciated Fredette and Snell playing well on Monday, but doesn’t plan to change his top seven in the playing rotation.
“We have a lot of confidence in both Tony and Jimmer,” Thibodeau said. “If there’s injury, we’re not going to hesitate to go there, but we feel good about our rotation.”
Dunleavy’s streak of 36 consecutive made free throws came to an end with a miss in the fourth quarter.
Orlando finishes its season at home against Indiana on Wednesday.
NOTES: Chicago made a roster change on Monday, releasing G Tornike Shengelia and signing former Houston F Greg Smith. The move was made with next year in mind, because Smith is out with a knee injury and wouldn’t be eligible to join the Bulls for the playoffs anyway, since he was released by the Rockets just last week. The Bulls are hoping the 6-foot-10 power forward can get healthy and be part of next year’s roster. … Orlando G Jameer Nelson missed his second game with a groin strain, while C Nikola Vucevic is out for the year with a sore Achilles. … No matter what happened Monday, the Magic were already assured of finishing with the worst road record in franchise history. Orlando beat the Bulls at the United Center 83-82 on Dec. 16 and has gone 1-25 on the road since that date. … Bulls C Joakim Noah started Monday with 419 assists, which is the 12th-highest total for a center in NBA history, according to Stats, LLC.
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