It was another rough night for Lauri Markkanen on Friday after his dud against the Knicks on Wednesday. The Bulls big man suffered a right shoulder sprain in the first quarter of a disappointing 123-119 loss to the Magic, and while he initially tried to play through it, he ultimately left the game for good early in the third quarter.
Markkanen got hurt when he banged his shoulder on a drive against Gary Clark midway through that opening frame. The youngster finished an and-1 on the play, but he was noticeably in pain and grabbing at his shoulder. Markkanen wound up playing 17 minutes and scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting overall and 2-of-5 from 3.
The severity of the injury is currently unclear, but Billy Donovan said after the game Markkanen is “unlikely” to play in the second of the back-to-back in Orlando on Saturday night. There will be more tests done back in Chicago.
These last couple games are pretty on-brand for Markkanen after all the talk about his resurgence, and hopefully this injury is minor and he’s able to return soon. The Bulls are already down Wendell Carter Jr., so losing Markkanen for an extended period of time would just be déjà vu from past seasons.
As for the rest of the game, the Bulls found themselves in a big hole once again thanks to a sluggish start by the starters. Nikola Vucevic — who would have a career night — roasted Chicago for 13 quick points en route to an 18-4 Magic lead before the Bulls finally stabilized things after, you guessed it, Thaddeus Young replaced Daniel Gafford. Patrick Williams also helped stem the tide with nine of his career-high 20 points (7-of-11 shooting and now the youngest Bull ever with 20 points) in the first quarter, and that early 14-point deficit was just two after one.
Coby White caught fire in the second quarter, scoring 11 of his 16 points in the frame. The Bulls actually pushed out to a six-point lead with just over five minutes to play in the first half, but the Magic closed out the half on fire, with Evan Fournier and Vucevic leading the way to a 10-point advantage.
Williams and Denzel Valentine kept the visitors afloat in the third quarter, but there was still no answer for Vucevic, whose 11 points in the quarter gave him 35 for the game through three. The Magic led by 11 points heading into the fourth quarter, and they regained a 14-point advantage just a minute into the final frame.
That’s when Zach LaVine finally woke up. After scoring just two points through three quarters, the Bulls star went to work attacking the rim to get Chicago back in the game. LaVine scored 24 of his team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, and the Bulls certainly had their chances to win this one. But while they were able to tie the game twice in crunch time, they weren’t able to get over the hump.
Missed layups plagued Chicago down the stretch, and all hope looked lost after an empty possession down five with around 30 seconds to play. Fournier gave that hope right back, committing a terrible turnover and then a terrible foul on a LaVine 3-point attempt, with Zach calmly burying all three freebies. After Cole Anthony hit a pair of free throws and LaVine capped off his big fourth with a layup with just under 10 seconds to play, the Bulls looked for a miracle.
Unfortunately, the road team didn’t get the friendly jump-ball whistle the Blazers got last Saturday when it looked like Garrett Temple tied up Fournier:
Which one of these looks like a jump ball to you? pic.twitter.com/VJBUYSytBX— Kris Amundsen (@klahoops) February 6, 2021
The NBA ruled the call from the Blazers game a correct one, so we’ll see what they say about this one.
Instead of a jump ball, the Magic got a timeout and then Vucevic finished the game at the charity stripe, capping off a monster 43-point, 19-rebound effort. The big man shot 17-of-29 from the field and 4-of-10 from 3-land, crushing the Bulls inside and out. He also handed out four assists.
LaVine’s 26 points led six Bulls in double figures, with Young (15) and Valentine (14) hitting that mark off the bench. Young had another outstanding all-around performance, adding seven rebounds (three offensive), five assists and two steals while shooting 7-of-10 and posting a plus-10. He actually started the second half after Daniel Gafford was so ineffective to start the game.
Tomas Satoransky also played well off the bench, notching 6/4/4 as Chicago outscored Orland by 19 points in his 21 minutes. While Garrett Temple’s shooting continues to come back down to earth (2-of-10 overall, 0-of-4 from 3), he’s still making an impact in other ways, notching five assists, three offensive rebounds, two steals, two blocks and a plus-8 in the box score. If you’re noticing the theme, it’s that the Bulls handily won the vet minutes again.
With Markkanen hurt and Otto Porter Jr. apparently now on the shelf for who knows how long with his back issues, Billy Donovan even dusted off Chandler Hutchison for four minutes. Hutch had two fouls, one rebound and a bad turnover, and that was that for him.
While the Bulls are dealing with their own health issues, this was still a bad loss against a shorthanded Magic team that had lost 12 of its last 14 games after starting 6-2. Orlando shot 51.9% overall, 11-of-27 from 3 and made 28 free throws. Even after this offensive explosion, the Magic are still just 27th in offensive rating.
Chicago had a chance to make a move this week with two games each against the Knicks and Magic. Now, the Bulls are down to 8-13 and needing a win Saturday to salvage a 2-2 week. Maybe they’ll finally end this pathetic streak:
The Bulls are 0-25 since the start of last season against the 8 teams that made the 2020 Eastern Playoffs.— Jeff Mangurten (@JeffGurt) February 6, 2021
This ends tonight.
Pregame for Bulls-Magic: The Rematch at 5:45 on @670TheScore.
If not, yikes.