The Bulls entered Wednesday’s game looking to end a three-game winning streak and regain some momentum. They are currently in tenth place in the Eastern Conference, the last half of the year to qualify for the NBA playoffs, and are just a game and a half ahead of the Toronto Raptors.
The team has been working with a new roster in recent weeks, adding Boston’s Daniel Theis, Washington’s Troy Brown Jr. and Nikola Vucevic, who faced his former Orlando teammates in Wednesday’s game. With so many new parts, it’s clear that the team is still working on refining some of the details.
Vucevic is the only starter at three, but Theis and Brown play important minutes as backups. They came off the bench and scored 18 points Monday, while Brown finished with two points but grabbed eight rebounds.
Bulls coach Billy Donovan was frustrated with his team’s defense in his post-game press conference Sunday after Chicago had allowed 120 and 121 points in two defeats. For a team that allows 113 points per game (20th in the NBA), the concern is legitimate and must be addressed if they want to be taken seriously in the postseason.
But the biggest sticking point is finding a way to get more consistency. The Bulls are 0-8 this season when scoring less than 100 points. On Monday against Memphis, they shot just 5 of 31 times from 3-point range and scored just 14 points in the fourth quarter.
On Wednesday, the Bulls faced familiar faces Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. who were sent to Orlando in the Vucevic trade. The latter was not drafted and will miss his seventh game in a row with a sore left leg. Vucevic has scored 218 points in his first 10 games, the fifth most in franchise history, with five double-doubles.
At this point, Bulls fans should feel like they’re caught in a time warp, watching their team get knocked out of the game every night at the start of the game. The Bulls were all over the place in the first half, giving the ball away eight times while Orlando shot them 57.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from downtown.
The only thing that kept the Bulls in the game was their production from long range, as the hosts hit 11 three-pointers, including four from Vucevic (57.9%). The former Orlando center led Chicago with 16 points and six rebounds in the first half.
Zach Lavine struggled, scoring just nine points, while Patrick Williams contributed eight points. Outside of Vucevic, the only other Bull to score in double figures was Daniel Theis with ten points. Chicago scored seven more points in the final 90 seconds of the second quarter, including a three-pointer by Vucevic just before the final buzzer, and took a one-point lead at the break (54-53).
The Bulls didn’t change their minds and the Magic continued to outscore the home team in the second half. After three quarters, Orlando held a 15-3 lead and outscored the Bulls 44-24 on offense. On a night when Lavin decided he wasn’t going to shoot (0 FG attempts in the third quarter), Vucevic did his best to keep his team in the game with 27 points heading into the fourth quarter.
Still, the Magic went into the final period with a 21-point lead, their largest of the night, thanks to a 22-6 run at the end of the previous quarter. With seven minutes to go, the Bulls, led by a relentless Lavin, finally decided to turn the tide and cut the deficit to six points with a 23-7 run.
LaVine scored 19 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls’ inability to defend the ball ultimately earned them another defeat, as costly turnovers allowed Orlando to take another double-digit lead. The Bulls lost the final game 115-106, putting them 10 games under .500 for the first time all year.
The Bulls host the Grizzlies Friday night at the United Center. Chicago lost 101-90 to Memphis on Monday and will try to even the season series. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. CT. The game will air on NBC Sports Chicago Plus and 670 The Score. As always, you can find all the latest Bulls On Tap content, articles, podcasts and more on the Bulls On Tap website.
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