Bulls look to extend winning streak against Magic
CHICAGO — When the Chicago Bulls were in the throes of a 10-game losing streak, coach Fred Hoiberg said success, at least in a rebuilding process, cannot be defined merely by wins and losses.
Even as the Bulls ride a six-game winning streak into a Wednesday game against the Orlando Magic, Hoiberg has not changed his tune.
Chicago’s about-face has produced a renewed sense of confidence. But considering the Bulls still have won only nine of their 29 games with another 53 yet to play, Hoiberg won’t make the Eastern Conference’s longest active string of consecutive victories the gauge by which the Bulls are measured.
“It’s still about going out there and playing the right way,” Hoiberg said after Chicago’s 117-115 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday.
The fact the Bulls were able to erase a nine-point, fourth-quarter deficit is evidence, Hoiberg believes, that his team has made progress from earlier this season. The improvement includes steady contributions from Chicago’s bench, sparked by reserves Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and David Nwaba.
During the Bulls’ streak, Hoiberg has watched as all of the pieces that once appeared disjointed have fit together in meaningful ways. Led by Mirotic, who is averaging 23.2 points over his past five games, the Bulls’ bench is providing impactful support for the starters.
That, combined by the winning, has changed the demeanor of a team that showed a tendency to drop its head at times this season.
“You can see it in the locker room,” Chicago guard Kris Dunn said. “Everybody has a smile, everyone is happy. That’s what it’s all about. I think the biggest thing, the reason why we are winning is because we are having fun with it. When you are having fun, when you are winning, things (are) a lot smoother.”
Orlando (11-20) also has experienced its share of disappointment. The Magic find themselves on a five-game losing skid, which continued with a 114-110 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
The Magic got rookie forward Jonathan Isaac back after he missed 17 games with an ankle injury. Orlando’s defense struggled with Isaac out of the lineup, which contributed to its frustrating level of play.
The Magic continue to be without forward Aaron Gordon, who has been ruled out for the Wednesday game with a calf injury that has kept him out of four of Orlando’s last five games. Forward Terrence Ross (sprained right MCL and non-displaced fracture) remains sidelined while guards Arron Affalo and leading scorer Evan Fournier are both listed as questionable to play against Chicago, the Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday.
Affalo has missed Orlando’s past three games with back spasms, while Fournier is recovering from an ankle injury.
Despite the injuries, Magic coach Frank Vogel looks at the turnaround the Bulls have made and believes his team still has time to make its move once it is healthy.
“Our guys still have belief in what we can be,” Vogel said Tuesday, according to the Sentinel. “We’ve been battling the schedule early and then injuries all throughout. It’s still very early in the season. It’s a long season and (there’s) a lot of basketball to be played. I don’t think anybody’s losing hope on that.”