The Bulls were short-handed, but that was no excuse for their lethargic performance in Orlando. The good news is Zach LaVine and Javonte Green were en route to Oklahoma City and could play Monday against the Thunder.
The Bulls looked like a team screaming for help Sunday.
And they’re going to get some.
At about the same time that they were allowing the nine-win Magic to run a layup line through their defense and talk trash along the way, guard Zach LaVine and forward Javonte Green were en route to Oklahoma City to meet the team for the game Monday against the Thunder.
They’re much-needed bodies, especially after watching the Bulls (28-17) fall to Orlando 114-95 in embarrassing fashion.
They had 10 assists compared to 31 for the Magic. They gifted the home team 24 points off 22 turnovers and were outscored 60-34 in the paint.
That’s not what a conference-leading team does, short-handed or not. That’s also why the Bulls were no longer atop the conference, sitting at third thanks to the Heat’s victory.
But one game after losing defensive specialist Alex Caruso (fractured right wrist) for six to eight weeks because of Grayson Allen’s flagrant-2 foul, at least LaVine (knee) and Green (groin) are returning.
“Getting some of the cavalry back [Monday],’’ forward DeMar DeRozan said. “It’s definitely helpful. Try and build off that and catch our rhythm.
“[LaVine] is our main player. We get our main player back, that changes the whole dynamic of our team. Just having him back, possibly having Javonte back, the energy he brings defensively and the experience he has out there on the court and the chemistry we have, with those guys, it speaks volumes, and the idea to have them back definitely changes everything.’’
From tipoff to final buzzer, the Bulls seemed lethargic. Whether it was the number of games they have been playing in this stretch or the emotional toll of knowing that Allen only received a one-game suspension from the league, coach Billy Donovan wasn’t hearing any of that.
“They were the aggressor from start to finish,’’ he said. “I can sit there and talk about who is not playing, but for the guys that are playing, how well can we manage the things that we can take care of?’’
The Magic set the tone in that first half. The eye test showed that, and the box score agreed.
Not only were the Bulls down 16 at the half, but they watched the bench get outscored 31-0, turned the ball over 13 times for 16 points and went 1-for-9 (11.1%) from three-point range. It was a perfect storm of bad.
Enough so that tempers flared.
With five minutes left in the third quarter, Moe Wagner grabbed DeRozan on a breakaway steal, and the veteran obviously took exception to it. There was a bit of shoving before cooler heads prevailed, but Wagner was hit with the clear-path foul, and each player was given a technical.
“To me, it was just stupid,’’ DeRozan said.
Considering what happened to Caruso on Friday, no wonder DeRozan was a bit touchy about fouls deemed a bit excessive. It seemed to spark the Bulls, as a 20-point deficit was cut to seven.
Turnovers and poor defense reared their ugly head again, however, as the Magic came right back with an 8-0 run of their own to bounce the lead back up to 15.
The Bulls wasted a 41-point performance by DeRozan.
“We’re not coming out aggressive,’’ DeRozan said. “Teams are coming out and getting into us. We have to play with a sense of urgency out of the gate.’’
The win snapped Orlando’s nine-game home losing streak. The Bulls have lost seven of their last nine.
Tonight the Bulls play at Oklahoma City.The Thunder feature one of the NBA’s top rookies in 6-foot-8, Josh Giddey from Australia, the sixth overall pick.
He’s got a wonderful feel for the game and crafty ball handling skills. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a star averaging 22 points, four rebounds and five assists. The Thunder have lost five straight and 10 of 11.