The Bulls have had a number of ugly losses that could be categorized as the worst of the season, and they just submitted another entry with a truly pitiful 115-106 defeat to a tanking Magic team that had lost six games in a row coming in. The Bulls put forth a #FakeRally led by Zach LaVine after going down by 23 points early in the fourth quarter, only to see former Bulls Wendell Carter Jr. and Michael Carter Jr. make key plays down the stretch to hold them off.
The Bulls sucked at the start of this game with a dud of a first quarter, going down by 10 points after one. They closed the first half strong to make it a 54-53 deficit at halftime, but then Chicago put forth arguably the worst quarter of the season. The Magic blitzed the Bulls 39-19 in the third quarter, turning a close game into a 93-72 laugher. MCW even hit a 3! The embarrassing showing even brought about an Al-Farouq Aminu appearance to start the fourth quarter as the lead stretched to 23, though he promptly had one of the ugliest offensive possessions you’ll ever see by nearly turning it over a few times and then overshooting a close shot by several feet.
After not taking a single shot in the third quarter, LaVine tried to go hero mode and had success for a while as the Magic went into tank mode. His heroics helped the Bulls get as close as six points with just under four minutes to play, but then a Carter putback and a Carter-Williams steal of a LaVine pass and then dunk on the other end made it a 10-point game again. The Bulls never got closer than seven points the rest of the game even though the Magic couldn’t function on offense, with one last James Ennis 3-pointer (he made 5-of-6 and led the Magic with 22 points) proving to be the dagger.
LaVine led the Bulls with 30 points on 11-of-22 shooting overall and 6-of-12 from 3-point range to go along with seven assists and five rebounds. But as good as those numbers look, I can’t really say he played all that well given 21 of those points came in the fourth quarter as he jacked up shots to get the Bulls back in it. His poor play was a key part of the terrible start, and then he was invisible in the third quarter as the Bulls got their doors blown off. He did have an injury scare in the fourth quarter but seemed to shake it off.
Nikola Vucevic had a nice game against his former team, going for 29 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 11-of-20 from the field and 5-of-8 from 3. However, Carter did well for himself in this matchup, racking up 19 points, 12 rebounds (five offensive), four assists, two steals and a block. The former Bull played with an edge we didn’t always see in Chicago, even beasting Vooch on a few occasions down low. That had to feel really good for the youngster.
Daniel Theis was the only other Bull in double figures with 16 points and six rebounds in 27 minutes off the bench. While Theis is coming off the pine, he seems to have usurped Thaddeus Young in the pecking order when it comes to closing games. Young only played 14 minutes in this one (he did look rough) and has seen his minutes dwindling of late.
The rest of it? Mostly garbage. Patrick Williams got off to a nice start and filled the stat sheet with nine points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, but he was basically invisible offensively after scoring eight first-half points. Tomas Satoransky was a minus-23. Lauri Markkanen hit two 3s and did a whole bunch of nothing besides that. Coby White played one of the worst stints ever in the first quarter. Garrett Temple was noticeably rusty in his first game back from an injury. Troy Brown Jr. and Denzel Valentine tried hard?
The Bulls allowed arguably the worst collection of offensive talent in the NBA to shoot nearly 50% from the field and 12-of-27 from 3-point range. While some of that is unlucky, the defensive effort was inexcusable from the start, as evidenced by Donta Hill flying around and making plays as the Bulls stood around and watched. Too many guys just aren’t playing with the effort and edge needed to win games, with some seemingly totally lost and checked out.
The Bulls are still a very flawed team right now, but they shouldn’t be this bad. They’ve now lost four in a row to drop to 22-32, which is just a game up on the Raptors and potentially the Wizards pending their result against the Kings. There’s another game against the Grizzlies on Friday.