CHICAGO — As the Orlando Magic's losses have increased this season, Arron Afflalo has kept a lid on his disappointment. The losses have worn on him, but he never has singled out teammates even though he has played at an All-Star level.
On Monday night, Afflalo channeled any lingering frustrations onto the court.
Afflalo scored 13 of his team-high 23 points in the third quarter, and the Magic needed all of the cushion that he helped provide.
The Magic led by as many as 17 points midway through the third quarter and just barely held on to beat the struggling Chicago Bulls 83-82 at United Center.
"We were holding on, surviving tonight," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "This game was a first-one-to-80 kind of game. We needed points, and there was a stretch he was really good for us."
The final minutes must've turned Magic players' and coaches' stomachs.
Joakim Noah cut Orlando's lead to 80-79 when he made a left-handed shot off the glass with 19.4 seconds left.
The Bulls fouled Afflalo with 6.8 seconds left, and Afflalo made one of his two free throws to extend the Magic's lead to 81-79.
On Chicago's ensuing possession, Luol Deng missed a potential game-tying layup with 2.9 seconds left as Victor Oladipo contested the shot.
Glen Davis corralled the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws to put the Magic ahead by four points. Chicago's Mike Dunleavy hit a 3-pointer from halfcourt as time expired.
"I've done all right, but I think it is important that we continue to get more wins," Afflalo said.
Jameer Nelson contributed 14 points and seven assists. Nik Vucevic recorded another double-double, scoring 10 points and collecting 11 rebounds.
Oladipo scored eight points, gathered two rebounds and distributed five assists without a turnover.
And Afflalo made eight of his 14 shots from the field.
Afflalo has been the biggest bright spot for the Magic this season.
"We've talked about some of the transformation that he did in the offseason," Vaughn said. "Part of that was dealing with life and sometimes that it's not fair, that it's hard. The choice that you have when you lose is how you're going to face the next day, how you're going to face your teammates.
"I think he's been really good this year at coming to work the next day still excited about his teammates and about going to work."
The victory was the Magic's second win in their last 10 games.
The Bulls, with their backcourt riddled by two key injuries, made just 34.6 percent of their shot attempts.
Playing the second game of a back-to-back, the Magic didn't score their first points until Vucevic sank a midrange jumper with 8:16 left in the first quarter.
But, suddenly, the Magic (8-17) couldn't stop scoring.
Vucevic's jumper started a 15-0 Magic run that included a jumper by Davis, a putback layup by Davis, a driving layup by Oladipo, a 3-pointer by Afflalo and baskets by Davis and Vucevic.
The Bulls (9-14) are struggling this season because Derrick Rose, their superstar point guard, will miss the rest of the season after he tore meniscus cartilage in his right knee on Nov. 22.
On Monday, the Bulls also were missing point guard Kirk Hinrich because of a back injury.
Chicago has lost 11 of its last 14 games, leaving United Center as quiet during games as it's been in years.
On Monday, Bulls fans had almost nothing to cheer about.
Chicago fell behind by 17 points in the third quarter after Afflalo's scoring outburst.
The Magic needed that cushion.
"This game has proven over and over again that it's a 48-minute game," Afflalo said. "Anything can happen."
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun