No matter how hard they had to grind, last season’s Bulls just simply found a way to win. This season so far, they have found various frustrating ways to lose.
Posting a season-low five turnovers and for the first time in 13 games, recording more fast break points than their opponent, the Bulls (9-14) still allowed the Orlando Magic to snap a five-game losing streak on their home floor, losing 83-82. They have now have lost 11 out of their last 14 games and four straight at home.
After battling back from down 17, the Bulls had an opportunity to tie the game, down 81-79 with six seconds remaining. After being inbounded the ball on the right wing, Joakim Noah delivered a perfect back door feed to Luol Deng – appeared to bobble on the gather, due to Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo’s swiping at it – but his layup attempt that hit the glass and came off the front of the rim. Orlando would make two free throws to end it as Mike Dunleavy’s half court three-pointer – which he thought had tied the game – only made for another insufferable loss.
“He missed a layup. Sometimes that happens,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There were a lot of plays before that that hurt us more, that put us in that position. We’re missing a lot of layups right now as a team. That’s on me. We have to work harder in practice on that. So we will get that straightened out. The rebounding, I thought, cost us. The thing that bothered me was it wasn’t going our way, we missed a lot of layups and then we jogged back. In the end, when you lose by a point, two points or a possession, you look back at the game and that’s part of the game – there’s going to be some misses, some mistakes -- but the one thing we can control is sprinting back.
“So that’s something that has to be taken care of. We have to have the toughness to get through tough times. The ability to pick yourself up, not hang your head, fight the good fight; that’s what we all have to do.”
The Magic outrebounded the Bulls 54-45 and the Bulls shot just 34 percent from the field and 27 percent from 3.
Deng led all scorers with a game-high 26 points. Mike Dunleavy and D.J. Augustin scored 14 points apiece off the bench. Carlos Boozer offensive struggles continued as he shot 3-for-10 for six points, but he did collect 13 rebounds. In the last five games, he’s shot a combined 27-for-77 (.351).
“For four quarters, we kept striving and pushing. We just came up short,” Taj Gibson said. “We blew a couple of layups, it’s tough. We’re losing to teams that we’re supposed to be beating.”
The Bulls had to battle out of a hole the entire game, thanks to them tying a season-low in points scored in a quarter with 14 in the first. Orlando got off to a 15-0 run in the first after the Bulls started on a 6-0 run and it was an uphill battle from there.
The Magic did everything to hand this one away by shooting just 31 percent in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls weren’t any better, shooting just 27 percent but making 11 of their 12 trips to the line. The closest they would get would be after Noah’s lefty hook with 19 seconds remaining cut their deficit to 80-79.
A game for the taking, indeed, which only made a blown layup at the wrong time even more demoralizing after a valiant effort to get back in the game.
“I got a good angle,” Deng said of the layup. “Great pass by Jo’. I know I missed it when I left my hands.”
The road only gets tougher for the frustrated bunch as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder loom on back-to-back nights starting on Wednesday.
“I think we have a resilient group,” Noah said. “Losing is really hard. There’s adversity right now, but we have to find a way to correct it. Nobody has all the answers. I just know that our spacing is terrible right now and we’re not getting any easy baskets. We just have to find a way to do better.”