For many of their games this season, Orlando has fallen into the pattern of playing pretty well for one 8-10 minute stretch and looking absolutely awful for an entire quarter elsewhere. Tonight, those periods came at the start of the game and the third quarter respectively, and that period of solid play wasn’t nearly enough to offset the the shellacking they got after halftime (nor even the shellacking they got at the end of the first). That was the recipe for a blowout, as Orlando fell 112-80 in Chicago. Aaron Gordon led the Magic in scoring with 15 points on 15 shots. Jimmy Butler added 20 points to lead all scorers. Chicago shot 25-31 from the free throw line, compared to just 5-6 for Orlando.
The first quarter started out promising, and it was all about offense, specifically Nikola Vucevic’s offense. 10 of his 11 points came in the first, most on a variety of jumpers with a bit of post play thrown in there. The pace was intense as both teams darted back and forth, scoring at will, and after the game Magic coach Frank Vogel remarked that he told the players in a timeout,“The first team to start playing defense is gonna win tonight.” Tonight, that team was Chicago, as Orlando’s offense sputtered out late in the quarter while the Bulls’ kept rolling. They finished the quarter on a 15-0 run to put them up by 13, 37-24.
The second unit which was so potent recently, including in the come-from-behind win against Washington on Saturday, struggled mightily on Monday night, as the Augustin-Fournier-Hezonja-Green-Biyombo lineup finished worse than -22 across the board, mostly coming from the end of the first and third quarters. While they were able to hold the game mostly even in the second, they were part of the massive third quarter collapse that put the game away for good. The Bulls got to the line at will throughout the game—Vogel remarked afterwards that the press would have to go through league office channels if they wanted to understand the foul call deficit—and their +20 point advantage on those points from free throws made up the majority of the deficit.
After winning the second quarter 28-24, the game hinged on whether the Magic would sink or swim in the third, a quarter which has been volatile for the team from game to game. On Monday, it was a sunk quarter, which the Bulls dominated 26-11. The offense looked as bad as it has all season, turning the ball over 6 times while playing with that suffocated style that’s defined their inability to score most of the season. Chicago, meanwhile, continued unabated, using a 22-3 run over about 7 minutes to put the game well out of reach. The rest of the game was garbage time, which allowed Damjan Rudez, C.J. Wilcox, and Arinze Onuaku to get some playing time.
Orlando returns home to play the Timberwolves on Wednesday.