Reserve Orlando guard Darrell Armstrong prefers to pass the praise as often as he does the ball.
Wednesday night, Armstrong scored a season-high 23 points to go along with his seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and a flood of praise as the Magic defeated the Chicago Bulls 103-94.
The Magic almost blew a 14-point halftime lead before Armstrong hit a 3-pointer with 3:48 left in the game to give Orlando the lead for good, 90-88. Nick Anderson followed with another 3-pointer and the Magic were never threatened again.
"Once I let it go, it felt real good," Armstrong said of his late 3-pointer. "Then Nick came down and hit the three and that hurts your momentum when you work so hard to get back in the game. It kind of cut off their morale and stopped that run, so that was the big key for us."
Orlando coach Chuck Daly has come to expect such clutch play from Armstrong, who led a trio off the bench who carried the Magic. Starters Anfernee Hardaway, Anderson and Isaac Austin were a combined 17 for 44. Reserves Michael Doleac and Derek Strong combined for 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting and added seven rebounds.
But Armstrong stood out.
"He comes in with that energy and starts making crucial shots," Daly said. "We were struggling offensively in a couple of areas. I don't know where we would be without him."
Randy Brown scored 20 points to lead four Chicago starters in double figures. Toni Kukoc added 17, while Ron Harper had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Chicago led 25-23 at the end of the first quarter before Orlando took a 57-43 halftime advantage. Armstrong keyed the Magic's first-half run with 13 points, four rebounds, six assists and two steals.
Chicago led 80-79 with 754 remaining before the two teams battled back and forth until they were tied at 88, setting the stage for Armstrong's key 3-pointer. The Magic led by as many as 12 points down the stretch.
Notes: Magic rookie Matt Harpring made his third start of the year when Bo Outlaw did not dress (left calf contusion). Outlaw, whose streak of 199 consecutive games played ended on March 8, now has missed four of Orlando's last five games. ... The Magic have forced a league-high 448 turnovers this year. ... Chicago's Andrew Lang suffered a medial collateral ligament sprain in his knee and is out seven to 10 days. He played nine minutes.
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