Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic game preview
TV: FOX Sports Florida
Time: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
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The Orlando Magic host the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, hoping to erase the memories of Monday's loss.
The Magic entered the fourth quarter of that game against the New York Knicks in control. D.J. Augustin's 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer gave the team a seven-point lead and momentum heading into the final quarter.
The Knicks stormed to the front behind the energetic and aggressive play of their bench players. Kyle O'Quinn scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the fourth quarter to lead the charge. Courtney Lee dropped in 20 points for the game.
In all, the Knicks went on a 22-4 run to take the lead and send the Magic reeling, frustrated with their own play once again. Orlando lost 113-105 at the Amway Center on Monday, marking the second consecutive game where the Magic lost a double-digit lead in the second half.
"It's tough, but we deserve it," Evan Fournier said after the game. "They just played more aggressive. I thought the problem from the last five minutes was definitely defense. They played with more energy. Their execution was better. On our end, offensively, it was not bad, but it wasn't good enough to close the game. That's the difference tonight."
The Magic have had a fourth-quarter problem for a while.
According to NBA.com, the Magic have the worst net rating in the league in the fourth quarter this season. The Magic are outscored by 7.3 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter. The team scores a league-worst 98.2 points per 100 possessions in the fourth quarter.
To say the least, the Magic struggle to finish games. That is certainly a part of the team's difficulties and frustrations in this disappointing season for the franchise. Orlando led in three of the team's four losses since the All-Star Break.
The Magic's opponent for Wednesday, the Chicago Bulls, is another team that has struggled late in games. Despite having a superstar closer in Jimmy Butler, the Bulls have a net rating of -5.7 points per 100 possessions in the final quarter.
That problem reared its ugly head in Monday's 109-95 loss to the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons and Bulls entered the fourth quarter tied before Detroit outscored Chicago 30-16 in the final quarter.
The struggle in the fourth quarter -- even with Dwyane Wade sitting out Monday and likely to miss Wednesday's game too -- is a cause for concern for the Bulls as they fight to stay in seventh place in the Eastern Conference and fend off the Detroit Pistons and others trying to get in.
"Average. Mediocre," Butler told K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, describing the state of the Bulls. "Now's the time to make that push so we can find ourselves in the playoffs. We've got to figure it out now."
With Butler and Wade in the fold, the Bulls probably figured they had enough clutch players to finish these games. And indeed, Chicago is a solid 18-14 in games that are within five points in the final five minutes. Getting there or extending their fourth-quarter leads has been the issue. And that has left the Bulls fighting to stay in the playoff conversation.
It is much like the Magic, who are 13-17 in those situations.
It is not about winning close games for either team. It is about running the final leg of the race. Neither the Magic nor the Bulls are where they want to be this season. And those final 12 minutes are clearly part of the team's issues.