By Philip Rossman-Reich
ORLANDO, Fla. — Fred Hoiberg said before the game his team needed better communication defensively. The little things it would take for the team to grab the rope again and get back into playoff pole position.
He could not imagine plays where Elfrid Payton was getting into the lane to lob the ball to Aaron Gordon or for Mario Hezonja to come clean around a screen and jam it — out of a timeout no less.
The message for the Bulls has been the same on the defensive end, but again the result was not as the Bulls fell to the Orlando Magic, 102-89, on Wednesday night at the Amway Center.
“It’s frustrating. We had a similar thing that happened last night in the first quarter,” Hoiberg said. “You dig yourself a hole. Same thing, you come out of the gate. When was the last time we had that lead coming out of the first quarter? It’s a trend that needs to stop.”
The Magic took control in the first quarter and never trailed after the first minute of the game. The Bulls found themselves down by nine points within the first four minutes of the game, and the defense was giving the Bulls no chance to climb back in.
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Not that the Bulls' offense did much, the team shooting just 38.4 percent from the floor and 6-for-19 from beyond the arc. Derrick Rose scored 16 points but failed to score in the second half as the Bulls trailed by 10 points coming out of the locker room and never once cut the deficit to single digits.
“Honestly, we have a lot of holes everywhere,” Mike Dunleavy said. “Just with not getting into our coverages, not getting into the gameplan, not getting into the individual tendencies of our opponents. And then just having a little bit of that grit to get it done, whether it be in the rebounding game, the post ups, hitting people. It’s kind of all across the board.”
The Bulls exited the game with a whimper with no run to threaten the sometimes shaky Magic.
Things are not looking good right now for the Bulls down four rotation players and having fallen out of the playoff picture. The hope is a return home can help turn things around and bring back the awareness and communication on defense that used to be hallmarks for this team.
“I think your record always shows who you are,” Pau Gasol said. “I don’t think we’re better than what our record is. I think at the end of the day talent doesn’t win games, sometimes it’s more the little things, the togetherness, the experience and doing the right things on the floor.”