Markkanen, Chicago Bulls get some late-game luck to beat Magic
The Chicago Bulls might prefer to save their good luck for the NBA draft lottery.
But positive momentum counts for something.
So the Bulls accepted some late-game good fortune Friday night on their way to a 110-109 victory over the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center. The Bulls improved to 3-2 in the Otto Era, or since the trade that brought Otto Porter Jr. from Washington.
And this qualifies as a quality win. Before the break, Orlando had won five in a row, all by double digits, and seven of its last eight to crawl into playoff contention.
While the Bulls played well, they needed a couple of lucky breaks.
The decisive play came with 1.5 seconds on the clock when the Bulls trailed by 1 and Lauri Markkanen was fouled behind the 3-point line by Aaron Gordon. Markkanen sidestepped Gordon to get an open look from the top of the key, but Gordon jumped from the side and knocked over the Bulls' forward.
Markkanen missed the first shot but nailed the next two and Orlando's last-second attempt was off the mark.
The Bulls had another dose of good luck with 34 seconds left when Magic point guard D.J. Augustin missed 2 free throws with the score tied.
"Just wanted to make it a little interesting," Markkanen told reporters in the locker room. "It was loud. My ear is still kind of buzzing, but it didn't bother me."
From there, the Bulls took a 108-106 lead with 8.7 seconds left when Robin Lopez followed in a Zach LaVine miss. Markkanen kept the offensive rebound alive, tipping it once before Lopez put it in.
Orlando replied quickly with a go-ahead 3-pointer from Evan Fournier with 6.3 seconds on the clock. Fournier got open by starting under the basket and running past a screen from Nikola Vucevic. The replay showed Porter calling to switch on the play, but Markkanen stayed with Vucevic and Porter couldn't make up the lost ground.
Markkanen led the Bulls with 25 points and 11 rebounds. The second-year forward from Finland has scored at least 20 points in eight straight games and has recorded double-doubles in nine of his last 11.
"He's really hot, that's why we're looking to get him the ball," LaVine said of Markkanen. "Me or him, whoever's hot. I'm looking for him in the pick and roll a lot right now. That's how it should be going forward. We should be a really, really good 1-2 punch. We're getting that chemistry down."
LaVine finished with 22 points, 6 assists and single-handedly got the Bulls back into the game late in the second quarter. The Bulls hit a long drought, scoring just 3 points in a span of 5:38 as Orlando went on an 18-3 run. But then LaVine knocked down 3 baskets from 3-point range in the final 57 seconds and the Bulls were within 53-51 at halftime.
The momentum carried through the break as the Bulls outscored the Magic 38-29 in the third quarter. Markkanen scored 12 of his points in the third quarter, hitting 3 of 4 attempts from long range. The Bulls led 89-82 heading into the fourth, but Orlando used a 7-0 run to quickly tie the score.
Lopez finished with 18 points, while Porter scored 17 in his fifth game with the Bulls. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, injured in practice Wednesday, played five minutes and did not score.
"I think we're starting to get in a little bit of a rhythm, we're starting to have a little fun out there too," Lavine said. "I think all our games should elevate. We're sharing the ball a lot more now. I think the shot attempts are down, but the efficiency is up. If that results in wins, I'll take that all day."
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Bulls vs. Boston Celtics, 7 p.m. Saturday at the United Center
TV: NBCSCH • Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: The last time Boston was in town, the Bulls suffered the worst loss in franchise history, 133-77 Dec. 8. It was the third game for Jim Boylen as head coach, one night after the Bulls upset Oklahoma City. Boylen pulled the starters after a bad start to the second half, never sent them back in, and the Bulls were outscored 40-17 in the fourth quarter. The Bulls also were blown out in Boston 111-82 on Nov. 14. … The Celtics (37-22) began the second half with a 98-97 loss at Milwaukee Thursday. … PG Kyrie Irving is Boston's top scorer at 23.5 ppg, followed by PF Jayson Tatum (16.5 ppg), PF Marcus Morris (14.5) and C Al Horford (12.9). … The Bulls have lost five straight in the series.
Next: Milwaukee Bucks, 7 p.m. Monday at the United Center
-- Mike McGraw