The NBA’s annual All-Star Break couldn’t have come soon enough for most teams around the league, but the Orlando Magic weren’t one of them. The Magic entered last weekend’s All-Star festivities winners of five games in a row, seven of their last eight.
Well the break happened nonetheless, and the red hot Magic had to wait for over a week to get back on the floor. Their time came Friday night inside the Amway Center, but a six-game winning streak was not meant to be. Orlando dropped a very winnable game in heartbreaking fashion to the Chicago Bulls, who entered play 30 games below .500.
Lauri Markkanen hit two late free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining to push the Bulls past the Magic, 110-109. Markkanen led Chicago with 25 points and 11 rebounds in the contest. With the Magic up by one point, Markkanen was fouled by Aaron Gordon shooting a heavily contested three-point attempt.
The Magic uncharacteristically missed eleven costly free throws in the game. Orlando ranks 9th in the NBA in team free throw percentage (79%).
Neither team began the game particularly sharp, combining to tun the ball over six times in the game’s first six minutes. D.J. Augustin gave the Magic an early lift, knocking down two three-point attempts in the opening quarter.
Aaron Gordon had a miserable beginning to the game, missing his first six shots from the field. However, he showed up (and showed out) big in transition on the defensive end, emphatically swatting two Markkanen attempts in the first quarter.
He didn't learn ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ pic.twitter.com/2iEtQyIolo— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) February 23, 2019
Orlando’s offense certainly looked rusty early in the game (ball movement, timing, etc.), but the Magic were able to connect on five of their first ten three-point attempts to build a first quarter lead over the Bulls.
Chicago began the second quarter on a 9-2 run, which prompted Coach Clifford to call timeout with 8:35 after a Markkanen three-point make. Orlando answered the bell, sprinting out on a 17-6 run in the second quarter to reclaim the lead Chicago briefly held.
Zach LaVine finished the first half scorching hot for the Bulls, knocking down three three-point attempts in the final minute of the second quarter, including one as time expired in the period.
The Magic really struggled defensively in the third quarter (Bulls scored 38 in the period). Clifford burned a timeout after LaVine hit another three-pointer midway through the period, this time in transition with no Magic defender in sight. LaVine finished with 22 points on the night.
A Markkanen three-point make on the right wing, followed by an easy Robin Lopez lay-in, pushed Chicago’s lead to double-digits in the third quarter.
Backup center Khem Birch provided the Magic with a huge momentum swing on their final possession of the third quarter, keeping a missed field goal attempt alive while outfighting three Chicago players. Birch got fouled and converted both free throws, drawing the Magic within seven points heading into the game’s final period.
The Magic went on a 7-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, evening the score for the fourteenth time in the game.
Both teams played pretty tight over the game’s final period. A Vucevic jumper with just over four minutes left in the contest gave the Magic a brief lead, but the Bulls quickly reclaimed their advantage with an Otto Porter Jr. jump shot. Porter Jr. had 17 points in the game.
Evan Fournier responded to a Porter Jr. three-point make by driving down the lane and converting a lay-in to tie the game 106-106 with just under two minutes remaining..
Strong Orlando defense forced Markkanen into a really tough shot (which he missed, forced it) with just under a minute remaining in the game.
D.J. Augustin, an 87% free throw shooter, was fouled with 32 seconds left in the game, but he somehow missed both free throws (which kept the game tied).
LaVine missed an elbow jumper on Chicago’s next possession, but Lopez was there in the paint for the offensive rebound and put-back to give the Bulls the lead with 8.7 seconds left.
Fournier miraculously buried a three-point attempt with 7.4 seconds remaining in the contest, but the Bulls still had one possession left.
Gordon fouled Markkanen with 1.5 seconds remaining, and the Magic failed to get a final shot off (after Markkanen’s two free throws) before the final buzzer sounded.
Fournier led the Magic with 22 points (8-17 FGA’s) in a losing effort. Vucevic recorded another double-double, posting 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 7 assists.
The Magic will now head north to Toronto to take on the Raptors in a Sunday afternoon tilt, game-time set for 3:30 PM EST.