Markkanen leaves with injury as Bulls lose in Orlando

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Bulls kept falling behind against a shorthanded Orlando squad on Friday and ended up on the short end of a 123-119 loss. They also lost Lauri Markkanen to a shoulder injury.

    The Bulls kept falling behind against a shorthanded Orlando squad on Friday and ended up on the short end of a 123-119 loss. They also lost Lauri Markkanen to a shoulder injury. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 2/5/2021 10:28 PM

The Bulls may have finally progressed to the point where they can have bad losses.

Not blow-a-late-lead or Damian-Lillard-goes-crazy-kind-of-losses, but losing a game they should have won. That's what happened to the Bulls on Friday in Orlando. Facing a short-handed Magic squad that had lost 12 of its last 14 games, the Bulls had too many lapses and lost 123-119.

 

They'll play Orlando again Saturday. Whether the Bulls (8-13) have any hope of stopping Magic center Nikola Vucevic will be one storyline. With Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. injured, Vucevic exploded for 43 points and 19 rebounds.

"It was disappointing, and we were playing from behind a good majority of the game," Bulls coach Billy Donovan said. "We couldn't make enough plays, to be quite honest."

Along the way, the Bulls lost Lauri Markkanen to a right shoulder injury. Donovan said it's unlikely Markkanen will play Saturday and the team probably won't have a prognosis until returning to Chicago. Besides Carter, Otto Porter is also out with a sore back and not likely to play in the rematch.

Markkanen appeared to hurt the shoulder in the first quarter when he collided with Orlando forward Gary Clark on a drive to the basket. Markkanen went to the locker room briefly, returned and kept playing, but every so often he would rub the shoulder in a sign of discomfort.

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Markkanen started the second half and knocked down a jump shot. But he took another hit on defense and left for good at the 10:30 mark of the third quarter.

Markkanen's injury might have had a direct correlation to another important part of the Bulls' future. Rookie Patrick Williams scored a season-high 20 points, in the process becoming the youngest player in franchise history to tally 20 in a game.

Was Williams, 19, more aggressive offensively because he got more chances with Markkanen and Porter out? If so, Saturday will be a night when Williams gets a chance to assert himself.

"I think not only me but every guy has to step up," Williams said. "Part of being a pro is being ready when your name is called. I'm kind of embracing that and I think the rest of the team as well."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Even before Friday's game, there was discussion about how Williams is off to a pretty good start, but could stand to be more aggressive on the offensive end.

For one of the first times all season, Williams grabbed a rebound and pushed the ball himself aggressively, eventually drawing a foul. The No. 4 pick in the draft was billed as a guy who can do a little bit of everything, and he played point guard until hitting a growth spurt during high school.

"It was good to see him more aggressive and more physical to the rim," Donovan said. "That would probably be the kind of game I'd like to see him do where he's attacking downhill he's rebounding, he's physical, he's playing around the basket, he's taking his pull-up jumper when he's got it.

"But I think he was aggressive playing downhill and we need that because it gives up more options to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line."

Zach LaVine had an unusual game, scoring 24 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, to go with 8 assists. Coby White scored 16, Thad Young 15 and center Daniel Gafford got another quick hook.

Vucevic dominated the matchup from the jump ball and Orlando surged to a quick 18-4 lead. The Bulls caught up, but let the Magic finish the first half on an 18-5 run.

Trailing by 14 points early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls tied the score twice in the final two minutes. But Evan Fournier's jumper with 1:21 left put Orlando ahead for good. In the final 10 seconds, the Bulls thought Garrett Temple tied up Fournier with the Bulls down by 2, but didn't get the call and free throws eventually clinched it.

It was reminiscent of the play that was called a jump ball last week and led to Lillard's game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

"Certainly wish that was the call against Portland," Donovan said. "That would have been nice, but that's the way it goes."

Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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