Wednesday, December 6, 2023

NBA Preview: Orlando Magic (6-5) at Chicago Bulls (4-8)

Even as a seemingly comfortable second-half lead evaporated, the Orlando Magic felt in control of Wednesday’s eventual last-second road victory against the Chicago Bulls.

The Magic hope to apply those lessons Friday when they visit the Bulls again, this time in East Group C play of the NBA in-season tournament.

Orlando is aiming for its fourth straight road victory in the series with Chicago.

The latest win came despite a 39 percent shooting night that included an 8-for-28 effort from 3-point range.

Orlando and Chicago are 0-1 in group play with three games remaining. The Bulls, however, are ahead of the Magic by point differential, losing to Brooklyn by two points compared to Orlando’s 20-point loss to the Nets on Tuesday.

The Bulls are hoping better shooting and ball security can boost them against the Magic.

Chicago entered Wednesday as the league leader in fewest turnovers and committed fewer than 10 turnovers in consecutive games before the Bulls’ matchup vs. the Magic.

Orlando forced Chicago into 19 turnovers and 39.8 percent shooting. Zach LaVine scored 11 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, Nikola Vucevic added 17 points and nine rebounds and Alex Caruso chipped in 16 points in his return from a two-game absence with a left toe strain.

Still, the Bulls looked uneven in long stretches without second-leading scorer DeMar DeRozan, who missed the game due to a personal issue and whose status is questionable for Friday’s game.

After scoring just 33 points in the first half, the lowest output in the NBA this season, Chicago found a spark down the stretch. Still, LaVine said players aren’t satisfied with the team’s overall effort in the first three weeks of the season.

Orlando had five scorers in double figures on Wednesday compared to four for the Bulls. Banchero led the Magic with 17 points, while Cole Anthony had 16 off the bench.

Gary Harris returned to the lineup after missing the past five games with a strained right groin. Markelle Fultz will miss his fourth straight game with left knee tendinitis.

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