Twice last week, Bulls coach Scott Skiles referred to what he termed "silliness" creeping into his team's approach.
There was more silliness Saturday night at the United Center.
The Bulls led by as many as 33 points and throttled an Orlando team that owns the Eastern Conference's third-best record with a 105-90 victory that featured strong play at both ends of the court.
Offensively, the Bulls were led by Eddy Curry's 22 points and eight rebounds plus 18 points and nine assists from Kirk Hinrich.
Defensively, the Bulls helped keep Orlando's hot-shot backcourt of Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley in check. The pair entered averaging 37.6 points and managed only a combined 18 on 5-for-22 shooting.
"We got our [butts] kicked," Francis said. "They definitely have a lot of young talent, guys who play hard.
"It shows that [general manager] John Paxson is doing a good job of getting quality, hard-working guys in."
That the victory came on the heels of disappointing, back-to-back losses and at a time when the schedule gods are smiling favorably on the Bullsa stretch of eight of nine home gamesmade it all the more important.
"This is a big stretch for us," Hinrich said. "If we want to prove that that five-game win streak wasn't a fluke, we have to play more consistently. We have to make plays."
Hinrich made a spectacular one late in the third quarter, flipping a blind left-handed layup over his head with his back to the basket.
That's the kind of night the Bulls enjoyed.
The crowd of 20,763 gave equal respect to the Bulls and Grant Hill, playing his first game in Chicago in four years. Hill, who has battled ankle problems, had 16 points to lead Orlando.
Magic rookie Dwight Howard, the first overall pick in last June's draft, didn't disappoint, posting his ninth double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
But this game belonged to the Bulls. Curry consistently asserted himself inside against a porous Orlando defense ranked last in the league, getting deep post position against Tony Battie and Kelvin Cato. He scored 11 first-quarter points.
"Kirk always tries to go into me early to get us a spark on the low post and develop an inside-outside game," Curry said. "It's been working."
Skiles broke from form and avoided calling a timeout when the Bulls committed three turnovers and fell behind 11-4 in the first three minutes.
The Bulls responded with a 19-2 run that featured an authoritative left-handed dunk in traffic by Antonio Davis and Curry's block on a Cato dunk attempt.
By halftime the lead had grown to 60-37 as the Bulls hit a season high for first-half points.
Hinrich was all over Francis.
"He's one of the hardest players to guard," Hinrich said. "I just tried to make him take tough shots."
The Bulls took Orlando's best, considering its offense is the third-highest scoring.
"We're at a point now where we're more than competitive," Skiles said. "We're winning games. Not enough yet, but on nights when we're sharp, we're an awfully good club."
bulls 105, magic 90