Friday, March 24, 2023

NBA Preview: Orlando Magic (23-34) at Chicago Bulls (26-30)

The Chicago Bulls’ three-game losing streak has hinged on a series of leaky fourth quarters.

It’s a troubling trend the team will aim to reverse Monday against the visiting Orlando Magic.

Chicago was outscored 97-50 in the fourth quarter of successive road losses to Memphis, Brooklyn and Cleveland, reaching triple-digit scoring as a team just one over that span.

Chicago provided proof such urgency exists in its first meeting against Orlando this season. Trailing by 19 points in the third quarter on Nov. 18, the Bulls rallied to take a late lead, but two crucial missed free throws by former Magic center Nikola Vucevic were costly.

That left the door open for Jalen Suggs, who swished a game-winning 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left to seal Orlando’s 108-107 victory.

Behind 32 points apiece from DeRozan and Zach LaVine, the Bulls responded with a 128-109 win at Orlando on Jan. 28. Chicago has won three of five in the series, with DeRozan averaging 34.4 points over that period.

Orlando has lost two of three entering an abbreviated, two-day road trip that concludes Tuesday in Toronto.

The Magic squandered their bid to secure a winning three-game homestand with Saturday’s 107-103 overtime loss to Miami. The Heat outscored the Magic 25-18 in the fourth quarter to force OT, as Orlando had just 12 points over the final 6:40 of regulation and overtime.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley reminded his team it can’t be distraught about officiating.

Fultz led six Orlando players in double figures. Paolo Banchero notched a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, while three players chipped in 14 points, including Wendell Carter Jr., who was acquired as part of the Vucevic trade in March 2021.

Vucevic on Saturday contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds for his eighth straight double-double, while LaVine had 23 points.

Still, the Bulls committed a season-high 23 turnovers in a 97-89 loss at Cleveland while scoring just 60 points over the final three quarters.

Eagle Eye Sports Monitor

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