REUTERS - The Chicago Bulls continue to thrive in the absence of league MVP Derrick Rose and cemented their place at the top of the Eastern Conference with a suffocating 85-59 road win over the Orlando Magic on Monday.
The Bulls are 10-4 without Rose, who has missed four straight games with a groin injury. Carlos Boozer scored 24 points and had 13 rebounds while reserve point guard John Lucas put up 20 points to pick up the slack.
The 59 points scored by Orlando were the fewest allowed by Chicago in any regular-season game. The Bulls’ previous record low points allowed was 62 in 1997.
Lucas said Rose was an influence even when he was not on the court.
“Derrick comes us to us every game and says, ‘It’s time, let’s go. Just because I‘m not playing doesn’t mean we’re going to lose,'” Lucas told reporters.
“We needed this win. It was a good road win for us.”
Chicago (38-10) have built a three-game lead in the conference over Miami, who they beat 106-102 last week.
The Bulls raced to a 15-point lead against Orlando and dominated the fourth by outscoring the home team 25-11.
Dwight Howard recorded 18 points and 12 rebounds but the Magic (29-18) could not get their offense on track and lost for the third time in four games.
Howard’s renewed commitment to the Magic was expected to settle the team after he waived the opt-out clause in his contract last week that would have allowed him to become a free agent after this season.
However, his decision has failed to provide the Magic with a spark.
With the win, Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau became the fastest coach to reach 100 wins in the NBA, achieving the mark in 130 games.
“Tonight you saw a team playing without their star player and they did what they needed to do to win,” said Orlando’s Glen Davis. “I wish they would have had Derrick Rose, in a sense.”
Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Rutherford