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Bulls 98, Magic 97: Orlando falls apart in final minute

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The Magic squandered a late lead Sunday and Chicago took advantage.

Pau Gasol and Nik Vučević
Pau Gasol and Nik Vučević
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Orlando Magic rallied from a 16-point deficit Sunday against the Chicago Bulls and led by five with 32 seconds to play, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Bulls held the Magic scoreless over the game's final 2:15 to win, 98-97, on a Pau Gasol follow slam with nine seconds to play.

Gasol scored 25 points and hauled in a game-best 15 rebounds. Jimmy Butler, another Chicago All-Star, scored 27 to lead all players.

Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton led the Magic's spirited comeback, with Oladipo's 18 points making him tops among the six Orlando players to reach double-digit scoring. But numerous mistakes late kept the door open just wide enough for the Bulls to earn the win.

The Bulls got off to a fast start, doubling up Orlando in the first quarter, 32-16, and looking well on their way to a blowout victory. Chicago got wherever it wanted on the floor and exploited Orlando's well-intentioned but over-eager help defense. Butler played masterfully, shooting 5-of-7 for a seemingly effortless 12 points in the quarter.

But the Magic worked their way back in the second and third periods by attacking the basket and controlling the ball. Oladipo scored and set up teammates on his drives, and in general Orlando limited its turnovers, committing just eight in the middle two periods.

Getting the three-ball to drop never hurts: the Magic sank three in the crucial third quarter, including two from Channing Frye, who had missed several wide-open looks earlier in the game. In general, sharper and more energetic play at both ends characterized the Magic's rally from 16 down, enabling them to lead by as much as five in the third period.

The teams entered the fourth knotted at 74, and neither club gained much separation after that: a layup from Joakim Noah gave the Bulls a three-point edge--the largest for either club in the period--with 4:30 to play, only for Payton to make three consecutive big plays to put Orlando back up one. After floating a difficult layup over Gasol, the rookie point guard stripped Rose and scored on the ensuing break.

Moments later, Payton kicked out to Frye for a wide-open three from the right corner. The veteran stretch four drained the shot to put the Magic up four.

A driving score from Oladipo put Orlando up six, but closing the game proved to be the latest Orlando misadventure in a season full of them.

In the final 75 seconds both Payton and Oladipo both threw iffy passes which led to turnovers. Worse yet, Harris committed an obvious clear-path foul on Butler. That poor decision led to a five-point Chicago possession: Butler drained a pair of foul shots and Rose sank a three-pointer. In 13 seconds of game time, Chicago had whittled a six-point deficit to one.

After a timeout, the Magic seemed unprepared for the Bulls' trapping defense. The officials ruled that Evan Fournier committed an over-and-back violation, an admittedly iffy call which they could not review via video replay.

Rose drove from the left wing and floated a shot over Kyle O`Quinn word. It missed, but nobody boxed out Gasol. He followed the shot in and dealt Orlando one of its tougher losses of the season.

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