The Chicago Bulls are struggling at this point in the season, but they will get little sympathy from the Orlando Magic. Orlando sent Chicago to their fourth straight loss with a 102-89 beating on Wednesday night at the Amway Center.
Orlando went through a stretch in January and February where they lost eight consecutive games and 11 out of 12. Since that dry spell they have gone 6-5.
Chicago was down early and trailed 33-23 at the end of the first quarter. The Magic increased the lead to 49-34 on a Jason Smith layup with 5:20 left in the half, forcing the Bulls to take a timeout. Chicago closed the gap back to 10 by halftime.
Orlando came roaring out of the locker room in the third period, opening with a 14-4 run to take a 74-54 lead less than five minutes into the quarter. The Bulls could get no closer than 14 points during the remaining seven minutes of the period.
Elfrid Payton’s basket from close range gave Orlando their biggest lead at 98-76 with 6:01 remaining. The Magic led 102-81 with four minutes remaining, but would not score again while the Bulls scored the final eight points of the game.
The Bulls played without all-star guard Jimmy Butler and forward Taj Gibson, but they would not offer that as an excuse. Guard Derrick Rose, who had all 16 of his points in the first half, sat out the entire fourth quarter along with center Pau Gasol.
Both teams were playing the second night of back-to-back games and looked sluggish. Orlando shot only 40 percent for the game, but the Bulls were worse. Chicago connected on only 38 percent of their shots.
Rose led the depleted Bulls with 16 points while Gasol added 12. Doug McDermott was the only other Chicago player in double figures with 11.
Nikola Vucevic led the Magic in scoring with 24 points. Mario Hezonja is putting up good efforts since moving into the starting lineup recently. He had a career high 21 points on Wednesday while Victor Oladipo chipped in with 17.
“(Hezonja) came out and had a lot of pop in his step,” said Magic Coach Scott Skiles. “When we ran plays for him, he was sprinting off of them instead of trotting off them and as a result he had a nice game.”
Orlando, who improved to 27-33, hosts the Phoenix Suns on Friday night.