Bulls fall to Magic in overtime
Mike Watters - USA Today Sports

Bulls fall to Magic in overtime

by - Senior Writer -

ORLANDO - It's just one of those seasons for the Chicago Bulls (25-28), as they can't get back to .500. Just when it seems as if they were turning the corner and about to push toward the .500 mark for the first time since November, they let another game get away, and this one came against the Orlando Magic (29-24) whom they are trying to chase down in the standings.

Despite the records and Orlando on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, you could see how closely matched these teams are as both teams laid it on the line for more than 50 minutes. After the Magic took a two-point lead after the first and maintained that lead into the half, the Bulls came out firing in the third, using a 36-28 quarter to surge in front 86-80.

That was the quarter they needed to get back on track, as you had to like the position they were in heading into the fourth. Once the fourth quarter got underway, the Magic hit the Bulls in the mouth as they opened the quarter on a 17-8 run to surge back in front 97-94 with less than five minutes to go. That was when the Bulls defense stepped up to force overtime, but it still wasn't enough as the Magic responded in the extra period to pick up another 114-108 victory.

With the win, the Magic are 3-0 against the Bulls this season with one game remaining, as they have already taken the season series. The only positive about this loss is that the Bulls still own one of the four play-in spots for the playoffs, but with only a one-game lead over Atlanta, the Bulls are in danger of falling to 10th, although they still lead the 11th-seed Toronto by 11 games.

Any time the Bulls and Magic get together, all eyes gravitate toward Nikola Vucevic who was back to playing at his home away from home. The former Orlando big man has been known to put up massive games against his former team, and that was the case again as he was the go-to man for three quarters before fading down the stretch. He did finish with 26 points and 17 rebounds, which is a game he grew accustomed to in Orlando.

While Vucevic was the go-to man early on, it was the Demar DeRozan show down the stretch as he continued to deliver some of his best balls in the final quarter. DeRozan has had a quiet season in terms of his production but has been very consistent, leading the Bulls with 28 points in the loss. Considering that Coby White had his worst showing in a month with just 14 points and no one on the Bulls bench coming away with more than five points, Chicago needed some production elsewhere to keep this close.

Thankfully for Ayo Dosunmu, he was the one who provided that production as he continues to have the best season of his career. Since entering the starting lineup for the injured Patrick Williams, Dosunmu has been playing at another level, and with 19 points in 39 minutes, he continues to prove the long-term investment the Bulls made in him will be worth it.

When you look at the Magic and their overall struggles over the past 10 seasons, you have to credit both the fans and the front office for having the patience they have had. That started to pay off last year as they narrowly missed the playoffs, and it finally looks like they will be sealing the deal this year. That happens when you invest in a bevy of young players and let them develop, which the Bulls need to think about strongly after this season.

One player who has been good but has come out of nowhere this season is Franz Wagner, who continues to own the Bulls this season. Already averaging close to 30 PPG in his previous two games against Chicago this season, Wagner continued to deliver as he dropped a game-high 36 points while knocking down five triples. He was the only one to score over 20 points, but the big man Paolo Banchero chipped in with a solid 19-point, eight-rebound night to give the Magic a perfect inside-out combination.

Along with those two came two more players with double-figure performances as the Magic continued to get a terrific balance across the board. Cole Anthony continues to show he can be a starter or a reserve player, and on this night, he was the spark the Magic needed off the bench. Despite struggling to shoot the ball, especially from a distance, his 14 points to lead the bench was crucial, but it was his 11 rebounds that stood out as Anthony picked a career-high in that category to post an impressive double-double.

Rounding out the double figure scorers for the Magic was another young star in Jalen Suggs who had the hot hand from distance early on. Suggs connected on three of his five triples as part of his 13-point effort as he continues to transform this Magic offense into the unit they want to become. The Bulls will continue their four-game road trip with a massive game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, with play-in positioning on the line.

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