Steve Clifford warned that the Magic would be crazy to look past any team.
But with the way the offense played on Friday against the 7-25 Bulls, it didn’t matter much if the Magic were staring right at them. Orlando shot just 32.6 percent from the field, failing to get into any sort of offensive rhythm from beginning to end, and fell to the league-worst Bulls, 90-80.
Not even the return of Nikola Vucevic, who posted 19 points and 19 rebounds and four blocks, and a strong performance from Evan Fournier (24 points on 8 of 15 shooting) could awaken the dormant Magic offense, which has now failed to reach the 100-point mark in the last six games.
Aaron Gordon’s shooting woes continued as he shot just 4-for-17 from the field, but did finish with 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and, perhaps most encouraging, zero turnovers after committing 12 in his previous four games. In the last five games, Gordon has made just 13 of 53 attempts from the field (24.5 percent).
The Magic (14-17), who made just 8 of their 33 attempts from three (24.2 percent), got little help from their bench, who combined for just 10 points. That included a 1-for-11 shooting performance from the normally dependable Terrence Ross.
The Bulls (8-25), playing without starters Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis, shot only 44 percent. But on this night, sadly, that was enough to rather easily secure their eighth win of the season.
The Magic led 20-19 after one but didn’t make their first field goal of the second until nearly midway through the quarter as the Bulls went on a 13-1 run to build a 32-21 lead. The Magic cut the lead to three at 56-53 midway through the third but never truly threatened after as the Bulls carried a 10-point lead into the fourth.
Orlando was held scoreless for the first five minutes of the fourth as the Bulls’ lead grew to 15.
Lauri Markkanen led the Bulls with a season-high 32 points on 12-for-20 shooting, including this posterization of Vucevic, who will not allow his new son to ever see this....
Lauri Markkanen taking souls pic.twitter.com/5f40NrEExv— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) December 22, 2018
Kris Dunn - with 12 points, eight rebounds and seven assists - outproduced his point guard counterpart D.J. Augustin, who had one of those ugly games where his total turnovers (3) exceeded his total assists (2). But it sure as hell isn’t easy to tally assists when your team has such a dismal shooting performance.
This game was expected to be the start of a favorable stretch of the schedule for the Magic, who returned from a two-game set in Mexico City and got routed by 40 on their home court to the Spurs.
They now return home for a four-game set, starting with Miami on Sunday. As Clifford said, look past no one.