Bulls fall to Magic, 98-91

The Bulls Wednesday suffered yet another fourth quarter offensive meltdown and lost to the Orlando Magic 98-91.

It was the Bulls third consecutive loss as they fell to 31-33. Orlando is 24-41.

The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 21 points, but on seven of 21 shooting with five turnovers. Jerian Grant kept the Bulls close with his shooting, making three of four threes for 13 points. Cristiano Felicio added 11 points. But the Bulls were badly outhustled by an Orlando team playing out the season. Orlando had a 17-7 edge on second half points and 27-5 in fast breaks. Orlando had 15 offensive rebounds. The Bulls scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, the fourth straight game with fewer than 20 fourth quarter points.

The Bulls were without the injured Dwyane Wade, missing his 11th game of the season. Rajon Rondo was back from his sprained ankle. The Bulls were looking to break out of a fourth quarter scoring slump, especially, averaging 16.3 points in the fourth quarter the last three games, which included a win over Golden State. At 3-3 since the All-Star break, the Bulls are averaging just 21 points in the fourth quarters. Butler was ill and missed Wednesday shootaround, but he played. Paul Zipser started for Wade again. The Magic was without Nikola Vicevic. This time it was a slow paced start for the Bulls, though they did get their first solid play from Joffrey Lauverge with five first quarter points. The teams traded leads and missed shots, the Bulls 40 percent shooting superior in the quarter, until the Bulls closed the first with seven straight points thanks to Lauvergne for a 22-19 lead. The Bulls got some action back into the offense with Rondo to start the second quarter working effective pick and roll plays with Cristiano Felicio. The Bulls took a 34-24 lead, but quickly gave back a pair of Bismack Biyombo dunks. Orlando shooting remained poor, just three of 12 threes in the half and sub-40 percent shooting overall that enabled the Bulls to take a 53-43 halftime lead. Butler had 13 points and the Bulls bench was effective with 23. The Bulls were seven of 12 on threes in the first half with Butler two of three and Denzel Valentine two of five.

The Bulls looked like they might take control moving ahead 63-49 early in the third quarter as Grant opened the half with a three. But the Bulls continued to get beaten in transition, again numerous times even after made baskets as Orlando suddenly pulled within 71-70 with three minutes left in the third. Orlando also continued to get second chance points, leaving the Bulls flat footed on defense with another indifferent second half. So the Bulls held onto tie at 77 as the Bulls closed the third quarter with three consecutive turnovers. Orlando’s Elfrid Payton had a triple double after three quarters with 20 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds. He had nine points, five rebounds and six assists in leading the Magic back from the 14-point deficit. But once again the Bulls offense came to a stop in the fourth quarter, repeated isolation jump shots and the Bulls being constantly beaten to the offensive boards for second shots as Orlando took an 83-81 lead with 7:46 left and moved it up to 88-81 before the Bulls got a three from Rondo and got back within two with 5:14 left. But again Orlando connected after offensive rebounds against the flat footed Bulls and took a 95-91 lead with just over a minute left.