In a fairly ugly one in the high altitude and altogether unfamiliar surroundings of Mexico City, the Bulls did show us some familiar poor offense as they scored 91 points in a 5 point loss to the Magic.
What was pretty wonky here for the Bulls was that they actually hit 10 of 18 threes (55.6%) but were again hurt by too many turnovers (18), missed seven free throws, and they only grabbed ONE offensive rebound all game.
To end the game they were particularly poor, though Lauri Markkanen tied things up at 91 with a minute left after going 1/9 from the field (including a couple wide-open misses).It looked like neither team wanted this one near the end, as it went back to suckage with turnovers by both teams (Dunn with his 4th in only 26 minutes on a clear offensive push-off), and then Nikola Vucevic was left wide-open off a P/R to break the tie.
It's ironic that the Magic won on an empty side pick and roll. That had become one of Hoiberg's favorite sets right before he got fired. pic.twitter.com/x578yOBQfz— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 14, 2018
A fairly wild but makeable stop-and-banker by LaVine, well, didn’t make, and then free throws ended this game in another loss for the Bulls. But we’ll have to check in on everyone’s spirit after the loss, that’s the more important thing!
Vucevic continued his impressive season, with a game-high 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block. That last make by him was indicative of much of his performance, the Bulls struggled to defend properly on the pick and roll, and then were too-aggressively double-teaming him in the post.
Orlando was fairly exclusively doing their damage on the inside in the first half, though back-to-back threes by former Thibsdust recipient DJ Augustin (he was pretty terrible otherwise, and it was also fun to watch Jerian Grant struggle to get the ball up the court for the opponent) was part of a 15-3 Magic run that gave them their first semi-comfortable lead.
For the Bulls offense, especially in the 2nd quarter, they weren’t really creating opportunities for eachother and mostly taking it on their own. When they did try to pass it far too often led to a turnover (nope, still not a believer in Kris Dunn: point guard of the future). The good results were occurring on Zach LaVine distance flings, and there was enough of them to keep the Bulls afloat in the first half, as LaVine finished the half with 14 points on 6/9 shooting.
The Bulls were helped by Orlando going 4/14 from three in that first half, though in the 3rd quarter they showed off their oddly huge-yet-stretchy frontcourt, with Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, and Vucevic all hitting triples and another by Mo Bamba off the bench.
But while the Magic would keep a lead, the Bulls were consistently hanging in there. Justin Holiday had a big 3rd quarter with 11 points, and I’d say every catch&shoot three from him is one of the more pointless endeavors in the NBA except it hopefully raises that trade value. Oh, and it also kept the Bulls within range I suppose (if that interests you), as while Orlando was always in the lead it never got too far away.
And that did allow for the beginning of the 4th to see the Bulls take over, as the Magic offense went into the toilet going 0/6 over a five and a half minute stretch with the Bulls scoring the first 10 points of the period. There were so many old-school post-ups by Robin Lopez (over Bamba*) and Bobby Portis (over Gordon), Stacey King was extremely juiced and jacked.
(*the Bamba-WCJ showdown never really materialized, as Bamba gets limited minutes off the bench and Carter had another devil of a time with the officiating, including 3 fouls on illegal screens. Carter did have this nice make when matched up in the 2nd half though)
The end, as stated earlier, was mostly bad all-around, with the Magic ultimately making more plays, but it was like two more plays. LaVine led the team with 23 points though had 6 more turnovers (some of these he is trying to distribute just can’t execute the pass well), Holiday had 18, and Portis with 15. With Portis back it relegated Jabari Parker to 4 minutes of action and 0 points but somehow 2 vid-able defensive miscues. I mean, LaVine and Portis also had their share in this area but we have to single out Jabari while we can.
It should be another rough week - or as John Paxson calls it, ‘actually good’ week - as the road trip continues to San Antonio and then Oklahoma City.