NBA: Improved defense key for Bulls against Magic


Either Chicago or Orlando will snap a short losing skid while extending the other’s swoon when the Bulls host the Magic on Friday.

Chicago dropped its third straight with a 124-110 decision Wednesday at New Orleans. Despite 11-of-15 shooting and 28 points from DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls could not overcome giving up a torrid 17-of-33 shooting from 3-point range to the Pelicans.

“The difference in the game in the first half we turned it over way too much, but it still was only a five-point game (at halftime) with their shooting,” Bulls coach Billy Donovan said, via the team’s official website. “They shot it well the whole game. In the first half, we did a pretty good job contesting, but there were six [3-pointers] we did not; they were way too uncontested.”

The Bulls rank among the NBA’s worst defenses in opponent 3-point percentage through their first 15 games. The competition is connecting on 38.3 percent of its attempts collectively from beyond the arc.

On Wednesday, it was central to a loss that continued the defensive woes for the Bulls.

Chicago gave up 250 combined points in its past two contests, and has surrendered 121.7 points per game amid its losing streak — nearly 10 points per game more than the Bulls’ collective season yield of 111.8.

Chicago will look to regroup on Friday against an Orlando team experiencing its own offensive struggles, particularly shooting from deep. The Magic average 10.2 3-point shot points per game, one of the league’s lowest outputs, and rank in the bottom-third of 3-point percentage at 33.6.

Offensive struggles plagued the Magic on Wednesday as they dropped their second consecutive decision, but their 45.2 percent shooting from the floor — including 9-of-35 from 3-point range — was less of an issue than 16 turnovers in the 126-108 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Fifteen of those were Minnesota steals, which contributed to the Timberwolves’ dominant 30-9 advantage on fastbreak points.

The Magic will be without rookie standout Paolo Banchero (ankle) for the fifth straight game. Banchero is Orlando’s leading scorer at 23.5 points per game in 11 games played.

Wendell Carter Jr. is probable ahead of Friday’s contest, the result of a foot injury. Their absences compound a variety of personnel concerns the Magic have faced since the outset of the season.

Cole Anthony hasn’t played since Oct. 26 with an oblique injury and has no definitive timetable for a return. Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz have yet to play this season.

“I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t frustrating,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said following Wednesday’s loss. “I understand it, and our guys are willing to step into the moment and do the right thing. And they’re going to play their positions and play those moments they get, but obviously maneuvering through it’s not easy.”

–Field Level Media

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