The Chicago Bulls have fallen, and they can’t seem to get up. And the playoffs are slipping away.

The Bulls lost badly for the second consecutive night, 102-89 to the Orlando Magic, and never seriously challenged after a woeful start in another poor defensive performance.

Chicago (30-30) lost their fourth consecutive game and their seventh straight on the road. If the playoffs started today, the Bulls would be home watching for the first time in eight seasons.

“This is foreign territory for me,” said Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who led the Bulls with 16 points and six assists. “There are no excuses. It’s all about the goals of the team. We said in preseason we wanted to be in the playoffs, but the question is now, are we trying to do that. I’m trying to figure that out. If we are, we have to start playing differently.”

Rose, who recently returned from a hamstring injury, played only eight minutes in the second half and failed to score. They never seriously challenged without him.

“It’s frustrating, and things don’t look too good right now,” said centre Pau Gasol, who had 12 points and five rebounds. “Teams smell blood with us, and they just go for it. We have to step it up.”

The Bulls were without starting forward Taj Gibson, who missed his first game of the season with a sore hamstring sustained on Tuesday in a lopsided loss in Miami. They also have been playing without centre Joakim Noah (left shoulder strain) and guard Jimmy Butler (left knee).

“We’ve got a hodge-podge group of guys out there now,” said forward Mike Dunleavy, who had eight points and six rebounds. “There are a lot of holes everywhere. The team is struggling, but we have to hang in there.”

The Magic (27-33) led from start to finish in a surprisingly easy victory.

Centre Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and seven rebounds. Rookie Mario Hezonja had a career-high 21 points and hit three of his seven 3-point attempts.

The Magic got 17 points and seven rebounds from Victor Oladipo. Aaron Gordon had 13 points and 15 rebounds. Elfrid Payton had nine points and 12 assists.

“I think overall, it was a step forward for us,” Magic coach Scott Skiles said. “I think our overall energy was good. We had a much more aware game.”

For the Bulls, it was the 15th straight game in which they surrendered 100 points or more. They gave up 129 points to the Heat in Miami on Tuesday.

Forward Doug McDermott had 11 points for the Bulls on Wednesday, but it was another frustrating night all around. Bulls reserve guard Aaron Brooks was ejected midway in the fourth quarter after two technical fouls for arguing with officials. He had seven points in 17 minutes.

“We’ve got 22 games left to figure it out,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I would hope the pride would kick in. It’s frustrating, another slow start. You dig yourself a hole, and again the same thing. We need to come out with a better defensive mentality. That’s the only way we can do it.”

The Magic led 84-67 going into the fourth. They led by as many as 20 points in the third as Vucevic had seven points in the period.

Orlando led 60-50 at halftime, grabbing a quick lead they never lost. They led by as many as 15 points midway in the second period.

© Reuters


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