Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg doesn’t believe that his players have quit for the season. Their performance against the Orlando Magic on Saturday leads many to believe otherwise. Not wanting to lose a third straight game and get further away from that eighth spot in the NBA Playoffs, the Chicago Bulls did just that by losing to a Magic team that was shorthanded, according to ESPN. Hoiberg and his players have 10 games left to try to salvage the season.
Ten days ago, the Chicago Bulls felt really good about their chances of closing the gap on the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference race for the NBA Playoffs. They won three consecutive home games against the Sacramento Kings, Brooklyn Nets and Utah Jazz. The Bulls felt they were sitting pretty because the following three games were against the New York Knicks twice and Orlando Magic once.
After a hot start to his NBA career, Kristaps Porzingis hit the rookie wall and started struggling. Against the Chicago Bulls, he decided to tie his career high in scoring by putting up 29 points. That helped the New York Knicks, a team that wasn’t going to the playoffs, pick up the unexpected victory. One night later, Porzingis had another good game and helped the Knicks upset the Bulls yet again. Frustration boiled as starting power forward Taj Gibson said that Chicago should not be losing to a trash team like New York.
Without their two top scorers, Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic, the Orlando Magic didn’t seem like they stood a chance against the Chicago Bulls. This would be where Fred Hoiberg can start turning his team around. Unfortunately for the Bulls, the Magic did not get that memo. A collective team effort enabled Orlando to steal a victory from Chicago on Saturday night.
Journeyman NBA center Dewayne Dedmon had been averaging less than four points and four rebounds all season long. Against the Chicago Bulls, he decided to put up 18 points, 13 rebounds and two assists. He also only missed five of the fourteen shots that he took. Neither the Bulls nor the Orlando Magic were expecting that type of contribution from Dedmon. The former USC Trojans star even outplayed Pau Gasol, an NBA All Star this season.
Elfrid Payton, a 22-year-old point guard still learning the ropes in the NBA, must have been fired up about his match up with the much more heralded Derrick Rose. The former outplayed the latter. Payton had 15 points, 10 assists and two blocks, while Rose had nine points, three rebounds and two assists. Not known as a great shooter, Payton shot nearly 78 percent against the Chicago Bulls. Rose, on the other hand, missed ten shots on a horrible shooting night.
The Orlando Magic had solid contributions from their supporting cast. Aside from Elfrid Payton and Dewayne Dedmon, the other three Magic starters (Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja) combined for 26 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Andrew Nicholson and Jason Smith provided Orlando with a combined 28 points and 11 rebounds off the bench. CJ Watson, Brandon Jennings and Devyn Marble also were quite productive in reserve roles against the Chicago Bulls.
With ten games to go, the Chicago Bulls have their backs to the wall if they want to make the NBA Playoffs. The two teams ahead of the Bulls (Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers) are on the schedule. Chicago also has some rough opponents in the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets as well. Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler, who combined for just three assists against the Orlando Magic, will surely need to step up.
[Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images]