The Orlando Magic’s first three-game winning streak of the season was not to be.
The team’s improved play continued as they opened an early lead, then kept the game within reach, then erased a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game. But a scoreless drought to end the game cost them a chance at victory as the Magic lost to the Bulls, 126-115.
Wendell Carter Jr. wasted no time against his former team, scoring 11 of Orlando’s first 15 points. The Magic, who shot 60 percent in the first quarter, took an eight-point lead after Moe Wagner hit a straightaway three to put Orlando ahead 33-26 with one minute remaining in the first quarter. But DeMar DeRozan and Troy Brown Jr. closed the quarter with back-to-back threes to cap an 8-0 Chicago run and give the Bulls a 34-33 lead heading to the second.
The Bulls continued to add to their lead in the second, going up by eight on a layup by Nikola Vucevic that made it 55-47 with just under five minutes left in the half. The Magic chipped away, with a three-point play by Cole Anthony and a three by Mo Bamba pulling Orlando back within two. Anthony helped keep it a two-point game with a two-handed putback slam off a missed three by Jalen Suggs...
The Bulls answered with a 7-0 run and went into the half with a 70-63 lead.
The Magic outshot the Bulls in the half, shooting 56 percent from the field. But Orlando got to the line just once in the first half, giving the Bulls a plus-11 advantage from the stripe.
DeRozan (20) and Zach LaVine (17) combined for more than half of the Bulls’ 70-point first half as Chicago shot 51 percent from the field.
The Magic made it a one-possession game multiple times in the third despite the Bulls shooting 60 percent in the quarter. The lead was cut to 97-94 on a Gary Harris three with two minutes left before the Magic allowed the Bulls to close the quarter strong for the third time in the game. The Bulls finished the third on a 6-0 run, capped by a DeRozan jumper with seconds left that sent Chicago into the final quarter with a 103-94 advantage.
The Bulls’ lead reached 13 early in the fourth, but the Magic continued to fight.
After Anthony’s three-point play cut the deficit to six, Franz Wagner drained a pull-up three to make it 113-111 midway through the fourth. At the other end, Anthony dove to the floor to grab a loose ball, leading to a game-tying layup in transition by Suggs to cap a 10-0 Magic run.
After a pair of Chicago free throws, Carter Jr. hit a jumper to even the score at 115-115 with 5:34 left. Those would be the final points of the evening for Orlando.
The Magic had multiple attempts to take the lead as the two teams exchanged missed open threes. LaVine’s runner then put the Bulls back in front at 117-115 with 3:35 left and DeRozan later added a turnaround that rattled around the rim and dropped in to push the lead to four. The Magic went cold and the Bulls closed out the game on an 11-0 run.
DeRozan had 29 to lead the Bulls, who shot 51 percent and finished with a 14-point advantage at the free throw line (Bulls 23-for-29, Magic 9-for-11). LaVine added 26 points and Vucevic finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
Cater Jr. had 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists for the Magic, who shot 49.5 percent and made 14 of 39 three-point attempts. Wagner had 22 points. Anthony finished with 20 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
The Magic complete a road back-to-back on Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers.