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Chicago Bulls vs. Orlando Magic: Preview, Injury Report, and Open Thread

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Three in a row? Eight Seed?

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (12-19) at Orlando Magic (12-17)

NBC Sports Chicago Plus, 6:00 p.m.

Injury Report:

Kris Dunn is the Bulls starting small forward. At this point it’ll be surprising when he isn’t.

For the Magic, no revenge game for Michael Carter-Williams, who’s out. Free-agent signing Al-Farouq Aminu has been out weeks.

Preview:

The Bulls are playing better.....right?

They have won four of their last six games. They have a winning streak going for the second time this season and have a chance to extend that winning streak to a season-high three games against the Orlando Magic tonight.

Are there asterisks attached to several of the wins in that stretch? Heck yeah. But wins aren’t weighted in the NBA and after the way the Bulls began this season a check in the win column no matter the circumstances is all Chicago wants at this point.

The Bulls are just a game back of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. One of those teams ahead of them is the Orlando Magic. The other is the Charlotte Hornets who lost against the Boston Celtics on Sunday night giving them a 13-20 record which the Bulls can improve to if they beat the Magic tonight.

After everything that has happened in this tumultuous, mostly disappointing basketball season, the Bulls could be in playoff position on Christmas morning————just as the front office and head coach Jim Boylen outlined as goals at the beginning of the season.

Of course, if you put things into context it’s pretty obvious the Bulls don’t deserve a pat on their backs for their efforts this season. They still are 12-19 despite playing one of the association’s easier schedules thus far and facing many teams with key players sidelined due to rest or injury. Grabbing an Eastern Conference playoff spot remains nothing to write home about as the current team in the eighth spot is five games under .500. Plus, getting an eighth seed with a crappy record ensures a matchup against a No. 1 seed that will almost undoubtedly sweep the Bulls out of the playoffs and deny them a chance at a lottery pick.

Again, the Bulls are kind of middling right now which is the NBA equivalent of purgatory. If it’s a prerequisite for future improvement, that’s more acceptable. But if eighth seed, first round exists is the ceiling for this group of guys that is a major issue.

The Orlando Magic are not exactly a beacon of NBA greatness right now either. But when they struggle, there seems to be a lot less drama than there is with the Bulls.

The Magic do employ two former Bulls. D.J. Augustin is still chugging away as a more-productive-than-you’d-think backup point guard even at the age of 32. The Magic give Michael Carter-Williams 16.3 minutes of playing time per game even though the shooting percentages haven’t improved much.

Former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz has gotten a second lease on life with the Magic and has played all right this season. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are a good frontcourt combo and the former always seems to play well against the Bulls. Evan Fournier leads the team with nearly 20 points per game as he remains one of the perennially underrated guards in this league.

Highly heralded 2018 draft pick Mohamed Bamba is looking like a long-term project and isn’t contributing a ton at this stage of his career.

Stat:

During the current six game stretch where they’ve gone 4-2, the Chicago Bulls lead the NBA in defensive rating.

Quote:

NBC Sports Chicago writer K.C. Johnson wrote a really good feature on Kris Dunn recently.

Here’s why Kris Dunn’s football career came to a premature end in high school.

“I quit because it was cold.”

He also describes himself as a hound later in the article.