The Magic were playing some really good ball heading into the All-Star break, putting them back into postseason contention in the terrible bottom of the East playoff picture. This made Friday night’s home game against the Bulls very important for them, but Aaron Gordon threw it away with a boneheaded foul on Lauri Markkanen in the final seconds:
Markkanen hit two of the three free throws to put the Bulls up one, and Evan Fournier couldn’t get a shot off as the Bulls stole a 110-109 victory on the road.
This last sequence capped off a back-and-forth fourth quarter and a back-and-forth game overall. Markkanen’s free throws came after Fournier buried a 3-pointer to put the Magic up one, which came after a Robin Lopez putback that put the Bulls up two. Between allowing that RoLo bucket off the offensive rebound (with an assist from Lauri), going 13-of-24 from the charity stripe (including two D.J. Augustin misses in the final minute) and Gordon’s awful foul, the Magic have to be kicking themselves for blowing this much-needed game. It’s especially painful for them given they shot over 50 percent and hit 14 3-pointers.
As mentioned, this game went back and forth all night. The first quarter was naturally sloppy after the long layoff, but the Bulls grabbed control at the start of the second quarter to go up seven points. However, the Magic punched back with a 13-0 run as the Bulls’ offense went into the tank.
But right when it looked like the Magic may go into the half with a big lead and a ton of momentum, Zach LaVine hit three straight difficult triples to close out the half to make it a two-point Magic lead. The Bulls then carried over LaVine’s hot streak into the third quarter, pouring in 38 points to take an 89-82 lead into the final frame.
The Bulls’ offense slowed down in the fourth, with Markkanen and LaVine combining to miss all seven of their attempts, but Otto Porter Jr. scored seven big points after a slow shooting first three quarters. And, ultimately, the Bulls did just enough, thanks in part to the Magic’s own errors.
Markkanen led the way again with 25 points and 11 rebounds. He didn’t shoot that great, going 8-of-21 overall, but he went 4-of-10 from 3-land after a slow start and continued showing aggressiveness off the dribble. He badly outplayed the man drafted right in front of him, Jonathan Isaac, who had four points on 1-of-6 shooting and looked generally lost.
LaVine had 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting overall and 5-of-6 on 3-pointers, though he did most of his work during the late second-quarter flurry and the third quarter. Lopez had 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting as he continues to hilariously play some of the best ball of his career, hitting the 17-point mark in four straight games for the first time ever. Porter had 17 points, five rebounds and four assists, again showing some playmaking and off-the-dribble chops.
The Bulls have now won two straight games for the second time this season (the earlier streak also featured a win over the Magic) to move to 15-44. They face the Celtics back at the United Center on Saturday.