Another fourth-quarter fade stretches Bulls' losing streak to three

What can be said about the Bulls' loss at Orlando on Wednesday that wasn't already said about Monday's loss in Detroit?

It was pretty much the same script. The Bulls played well in the first half, were tied at the end of three quarters, then fell apart in the fourth. Orlando pulled away late and handed the Bulls their third straight loss 98-91 at the Amway Center.

Dwyane Wade missed his second straight game with a thigh injury, but there's no easy fix for the Bulls' fourth-quarter issues. During the three-game losing streak, they've scored 18, 16 and 14 points in the fourth.

"I think it gets into our heads a little bit," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the game. "It becomes mental when you have this last week of fourth quarters like w have. We missed a couple open shots, gave them a couple easy ones on the other end, had some awful turnovers, couldn't find a way to get a rebound and come down with pace.

"Getting off to a good start in the fourth quarter is very important. We have to look at a lot of things as far as what we're going to do with the rotation. Obviously, when we get Dwyane back, it will help and hopefully we'll have him back for the next game."

Against the Magic (24-41), Joffrey Lavergne hit a free throw to give the Bulls a 78-77 lead 12 seconds into the fourth quarter. The Bulls followed with a turnover, blocked shot, missed 3-pointer and missed layup.

Cristiano Felicio's basket put the Bulls ahead 81-79, but this time they followed up with a pair of 3-point misses, a missed jumper and two turnovers. Orlando took advantage and built an 88-81 lead.

The Bulls had a couple of tough defensive possessions late in the game. With the Bulls trailing by two points, Orlando took the ball out of bounds along the baseline with 0.7 seconds on the shot clock. Aaron Gordon ran into the lane, bounced off Lauvergne to create some space, caught the lob pass and hit the shot.

Maybe that could be chalked up as a nice play by a great athlete, but after Jerian Grant's jumper brought the Bulls within 93-91, Orlando got 3 offensive rebounds on their next trip, finally scoring on an Elfrid Payton putback. When the Bulls came up empty on their next two possessions, the game was over.

"The rebounding, those are the ones you can control," Hoiberg said. "The turnovers; we gave up 15 offensive rebounds. It's hard to win when you do that."

Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 21 points and 9 assists, but hit just 7 of 21 shots. Grant had a decent game with 13 points, while Felicio scored 11. The Bulls hit 12 of 28 shots from 3-point range, but once again, couldn't get enough clutch plays when the game was on the line.

Hoiberg played Lauvergne, who came over in the trade with Oklahoma City, down the stretch. In his first extensive minutes with the Bulls, the third-year power forward produced 7 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Nikola Mirotic did not play.

"Joffrey's been really good," Hoiberg said. "I wanted to get him some extended minutes, I thought he showed some things. I thought he played well."

Payton overcame his strange hairstyle to produce his second straight triple-double for the Magic, finishing with 22 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds.

The Bulls (31-33) have some tough games coming up. Houston visits the United Center on Friday, then they'll play a road back-to-back in Boston and Charlotte.

During the three-game losing streak, the Bulls have been outscored by a combined 51 points in the second half. They offense flows in the first half, then gets stagnant late. The problem will be difficult to fix with so many young players in the Bulls' rotation.

Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.