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Another flat second half dooms Bulls in loss to Magic

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The Bulls were simply outworked in all facets of the loss

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

In a season of ugly losses, it’s hard to pinpoint an absolute rock bottom. And with 18 games left in the season, it’s possible the Bulls have yet to reach their lowest depth. But after losing to the Orlando Magic 98-91, I’m not sure how much worse it can get.

Orlando crushed the Bulls across every hustle metric that exists. The Magic outscored the Bulls 44-36 in the paint, had 27 fast break points compared to just five for the Bulls, and out rebounded Chicago down the stretch. The Bulls actually held Orlando to 41% shooting, but in surrendering 15 offensive rebounds, the Magic killed the Bulls on second chance points, 17-7.

Jimmy Butler’s counting stats looked solid. He finished with 21 points, nine assists and four rebounds. He also shot a miserable 7/21 from the field, only shot five foul shots, and turned the ball over five times. Butler looked completely out of sorts in the fourth quarter, going 0/5 from the field and failing to score a single point.

It’s easy to just kill Jimmy for being unable to create offense when the Bulls needed him most, but Fred Hoiberg did him no favors tonight. Whatever playbook Chicago used to build a ten point lead at halftime was left behind in the locker room, as Butler ran isolation after isolation. Jimmy was rarely able to break through the several layers of help defense Orlando threw at him and settled mainly for contested jump shots.

Elfrid Payton was everywhere for the Magic in this one. He posted his second consecutive triple-double with a team high 22 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists. He added a pair of blocks and steals, and only turned the ball over twice in his 35 minutes. Six of Payton’s rebounds came on the offensive glass, including a crucial put back in the final stretch of the game that really put a dagger in Chicago’s spirit.

Side note, this is all I think about when Rondo and Payton are matched up against each other:

If there was one bright spot in this loss, it was the continued hot shooting of Jerian Grant. Grant hit three of his four attempts from long range and was 56% overall from the field. Grant was inserted into the lineup to close the game and hit a couple of big shots that prevented Orlando from really running away in the fourth quarter.

It’s rough losing to a bad team, it’s even worse when that bad team doesn’t play well. The Magic were without Nikola Vucevic, one of their only capable scorers. Rookie Stephen Zimmerman sopped up the minutes at center when Biyombo was on the bench, and he looked horribly unprepared to play. Orlando shot just 28% from three on some truly awful attempts.

The Bulls somehow just found a way to be worse.