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Luol Deng steps up big for Bulls in 99-93 win over Magic

Luol Deng puts two his 23 points Tuesday as Magic’s DeQuan Jones tries defend. | Gary Dineen~Getty Images

Luol Deng puts in two of his 23 points Tuesday as the Magic’s DeQuan Jones tries to defend. | Gary Dineen~Getty Images

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Updated: December 8, 2012 6:44AM



From the start of training camp, it has been about saying the right thing when the subject of Derrick Rose is brought up.

From the mouths of Bulls players:

‘‘Derrick is doing his rehab and we have to do our thing.’’

“We have to find ways to win games with the guys we have here.’’

Maybe, just maybe, they found a way. Or at least found someone.

It’s about time for Luol Deng.

The veteran forward had his best game of the early season, scoring a team-high 23 points in a 99-93 win over the Orlando Magic, with eight coming in the final quarter, where Rose so frequently took over.

With the All-Star point guard rehabbing his surgically repaired left anterior cruciate ligament until at least February, the Bulls (3-1) needed someone in crunch time.

It didn’t happen in the loss to New Orleans, but Deng put on his red cape Tuesday.

‘‘Derrick is doing what he’s got to do to come back, and when he gets back, we’re going to be a lot better,’’ Deng said. ‘‘It’s just totally a different team, and we’ve got to find our own ways in winning those games. And there are a lot of ways. You can say it’s a learning process, it’s a getting-to-know-your-team. Different nights it’s going to be different guys on the floor.’’

It was Deng against the previously unbeaten Magic. He also chipped in eight rebounds and four assists.

The Bulls found out right away that the Magic (2-1) wasn’t going to just go away like the Cleveland Cavaliers did.

After the Bulls built a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter, the Magic shot its way back to take a 24-23 lead going into the second.

It wasn’t until the fourth that the Bulls again seemed to grab control, when Nate Robinson hit back-to-back jumpers, but Glen Davis kept the Magic in it.

‘‘That’s how we have to play — that’s our team,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of his team’s resiliency. ‘‘That’s the only way we have a chance every night of putting a ‘W’ into the column. We have to play together and play extremely hard.’’

Deng continued his solid shooting night, hitting back-to-back 16-footers to put the Bulls up by five with just under seven minutes left.

‘‘I’m at that point in my career where if one thing isn’t working, just find a way to do something else to help the team,’’ Deng said. ‘‘I don’t have to be out there just dropping my head if I’m not scoring. I realize that I can do other things, whether it’s rebounding, hustle plays, or just playing defense if that’s my role that night.’’

His role Tuesday was helping to finish off the Magic, and he filled it to perfection. The Bulls also got seven points from Robinson and Joakim Noah in that final quarter, but Deng carried the night.

‘‘He’s been around a long time,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘‘I think he’s shown that each year he’s gotten better and better.’’



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