Orlando Magic Grades: Chicago Bulls 118, Orlando Magic 92

Nikola Vucevic struggled with the Chicago Bulls' pressure as the Orlando Magic fell apart at home. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Nikola Vucevic struggled with the Chicago Bulls' pressure as the Orlando Magic fell apart at home. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

118. 24. 92. 38. Final

Something was clearly off for the Orlando Magic from the very start of the game.

The team was scoring only to mask the problems that were plaguing them, even dating back to the fourth quarter and the near-collapse that played out in Friday’s win over these same Chicago Bulls.

Zach LaVine had that glimmer in his eye like he was going to take over the game from the start. He was not going to be the passive player who scored only two points through three quarters. He was going to be the aggressor who attacked to score 24 in the fourth, nearly single-handedly guiding the Bulls to a victory.

He let there be no doubt this time. The Bulls were the ones in full control.

The Magic’s offense dried up in the second quarter, scoring only 12 points and losing out on the free throws and attacks into the paint that kept them alive through the first quarter. Without much ball movement, the team was unable to get Nikola Vucevic going.

Instead, it only fed the Bulls in transition. It only got LaVine going downhill. And before the Magic knew it, they were in a hole too big for them to climb out, trailing by as much as 33 points in the second half in a 118-92 win at the Amway Center.

Orlando could never find the fluid offense that keyed the team’s victory from Friday. Instead, it was the same frustration that has characterized much of this season to this point.

The Magic shot 38.9-percent from the floor and just 6 for 27 from beyond the arc. Coach Steve Clifford lamented the team’s lack of ball movement — just 17 assists on 37 field goals after having a high-assist game in the win on Friday.

The team was just stuck.

And they had little answer to slow the Bulls down. Chicago scored 50 points in the paint for the game and 95 points through three quarters. About the only positives were what the young players did when the game was already long decided.

But that is hardly any solace. The Magic again let go of the rope and remained loose defensively, giving up the chance to even compete in the game.

C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC. C.

Whenever a team loses like this, the first thing to look at is how the team’s best player and leader played. For sure, the Chicago Bulls knew Nikola Vucevic was going to be a central focus for the Orlando Magic after Vucevic dropped a career-high 43 points on the Bulls on Friday. They put all their attention on him with hard doubles any time he caught the ball in the post and automatic switches on every pick and roll.

Vucevic had some success against this with a team-high 17 points, albeit on 7-for-17 shooting. But it was largely for now. The pressure got to him as some of this junk defense either made him over-eager to attack or surrounded him with multiple bodies and few outlets to escape and keep the ball moving. Worse still, it affected his defensive effort as he was late to a few spots and struggled to repel anyone in the paint.

. PF. Orlando Magic. GARY CLARK. F

It is getting a lot harder to justify Gary Clark‘s presence on the floor or his role as the starter in Aaron Gordon’s absence. He provides so little offensively and he just has not become the reliable stretch-4 he needs to become if he is going to contribute positively to this team. That is what the Magic were banking on with him — and that is what led them to a Game 1 win.

But so far this season, that has not even been good enough to be called inconsistent. Gary Clark made just one of his five 3-pointers in Saturday’s loss. Clark is shooting just 26.1-percent on 3-pointers. It is certainly at the point that defenses are leaving him open and living with the results. His contributions on defense are more or less negligible at this point.

. PG. Orlando Magic. COLE ANTHONY. C+

This Orlando Magic’s team ceiling might well be only as high as Cole Anthony can take it. He is running the show as the team’s point guard and if he does that effectively, the Magic can be very good. If he struggles, the team is going to be in a rut. Especially without the support of Evan Fournier (a late scratch with back spasms), another scorer, shooter and playmaker to ease some of that burden, Cole Anthony was somewhat alone. And he struggled.

He scored 11 points on 5-for-16 shooting. He had five assists in the game. There were good moments, including a highlight-reel worthy one-handed dunk. Anthony is still doing well to get to his spots although he lacks some of the finishing flair. And his confidence and consistency with his shot is not quite there yet.

There is no reason to think he will not get there. Not yet, at least. He has made significant improvement even in the course of this season. The Magic were at their best when Anthony was playing confidently and going at the defense. That was not done enough to get the win.

Orlando Magic. MOHAMED BAMBA. A. . C

The blowout loss gave Mohamed Bamba a real chance to play for an extended period of time. He played the whole 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. This was meaningless basketball in the big scheme of things. But for Mohamed Bamba, this was a chance to prove he could make an impact. And, if there was one positive of this game, Bamba made a major statement.

Bamba scored 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting, without hitting a 3-pointer. He grabbed seven rebounds including three offensive rebounds. He created plenty of his own opportunities. He rolled confidently down the lane instead of settling for pops and jumpers. And, yes, he blocked his share of shots and disrupted the defense.

The minor victory of that fourth quarter was the Magic cut the deficit to less than 20 points, forcing the Bulls to re-insert Zach LaVine into the lineup. Bamba should not get all the credit for this. But he certainly did his part. It was hard to miss his presence. And that is what he needed to do with these extended minutes.

11th East. CHICAGO BULLS. A. . 9-13

The Chicago Bulls were upset with their lackluster effort in Friday’s loss. They saw Zach LaVine play passively for three quarters and then turn it on. He kept it on this time and never let go. He scored 39 points, hitting five of six 3-pointers. He had 28 and two 3-pointers through three quarters.

It was not just him playing well. Patrick Williams followed up a strong game Friday with 16 points and 10 rebounds Saturday. The Bulls as a team made 51.6-percent of their shots and 15 of 30 3-pointers. It was easy to shoot all night long. The Bulls dominated this game and it was not just the score.

Next. Orlando Magic cannot do too much to get out of rut. dark

The Magic are now 9-15 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic open a four-game road trip on Tuesday against the Portland Trail Blazers.