Magic Unable to Slow Down Zach LaVine in Loss to Bulls

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

The Lead

On Friday in the first of two straight games between the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls at Amway Center, it was Nikola Vucevic who put on a show with a career-high 43-point performance. On Saturday, it was Zach LaVine’s turn, as Chicago’s 6-foot-6 high-flyer scored 39 points to lead the Bulls to a 118-92 victory over the Magic. LaVine, who like Vucevic is deserving of an All-Star spot, shot 16-for-25 from the field and 5-for-6 from 3-point range.

Injury Report

Evan Fournier was a late scratch on Saturday with back spasms. The 28-year old missed nine straight games earlier this season with the same injury. It’s unclear at this moment if this injury will prevent Fournier from being available when the Magic start their four-game West Coast road trip on Tuesday. Orlando was also without Aaron Gordon (left ankle sprain), Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation), Al-Farouq Aminu (right knee rehabilitation) and Michael Carter-Williams (sprained left foot).

Key Stretch

The Bulls blew the game open in the second quarter when they went on a 25-8 run going into intermission. LaVine had 11 of his points during that stretch, while Denzel Valentine and rookie Patrick Williams, the fourth overall pick in 2020 out of Florida State, also made baskets.

Key Stat

Protecting the paint has been a problem for the Magic this season. That’s not a total surprise with Isaac, one of the league’s best defenders, unavailable and Gordon also currently out. The Bulls took advantage of Orlando’s weak interior defense on Saturday, scoring 50 points in the paint. Coming into Saturday’s NBA action, the Magic ranked 23rd in opponent points in the paint. Last year, they ranked ninth in this category.

Rookie Watch

Many questioned the strength of the 2020 NBA Draft class. There not being an NCAA Tournament last March because of the pandemic made it more difficult to judge some of the talent. Also, some of the top prospects played overseas last season. While it’s still way too early to make any conclusions, the class does seem far better than many felt going into the draft. Two rookies making a big impact are Williams for the Bulls and Cole Anthony for the Magic. Williams scored 16 points on Saturday, while Anthony had 11.

Player Spotlight

Granted it came with the outcome no longer in doubt, Mo Bamba had a strong showing in his 12 minutes of action. The 7-foot, 231-pounder scored 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field, grabbed seven rebounds and rejected three shots. Meanwhile, in just his second game with the Magic, Frank Mason III posted 10 points, four rebounds and four assists.

Quote of the Night

“It’s a long season. We’re going to go through ups and downs. Right now, we’re just right in the thick of it. We’re going through a hard time, but It’s not going to last forever. We just have to stick with it.” – Terrence Ross

Up Next

The Magic start a four-game West Coast road trip in Portland on Tuesday night. The Blazers just wrapped up an East Coast trip on Sunday with a loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Damian Lillard led Portland with 29 points, while Gary Trent Jr. scored 19. The Blazers went 3-3 on the trip, which did include a stop in Houston as well. Orlando’s other opponents on its upcoming voyage are the Warriors, Kings and Suns.