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Bulls miss their chances late
The Bulls lost a game Monday night they had no business winning, even if they somehow kept getting chances in the Magic's 96-93 victory.
The Bulls surrendered runs of 13-0 and 17-1, committed 18 turnovers that led to 26 Magic points and allowed 16 offensive rebounds that the Magic converted into 21 second-chance points.
Still, Ben Gordon had a chance to tie the game before attempting a wild running shot with 13.9 seconds left.
After Rashard Lewis sank two free throws for a 96-92 Magic lead, Andres Nocioni had another chance to tie at the buzzer when he split two free throws and then intentionally missed the last of his three (he had been fouled shooting a three-pointer), got his own rebound and missed a desperation three-pointer.
These chances occurred because Drew Gooden did the best he could in his matchup with Dwight Howard, scoring 21 points to Howard's 22 before fouling out. And, most glaringly, because a three-guard lineup of Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose produced 35 points.
Then again, three-guard lineups wouldn't be necessary if somebody hadn't kidnapped Luol Deng.
Yes, Deng started and played 26 minutes. But the fifth-year forward clearly is struggling to adapt to a new offensive system, missing all eight of his shots and making one fourth-quarter free throw.
Deng didn't play the final 10 minutes 7 seconds.
"We need him to get going," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "He hasn't been able to get into rhythm, and then he starts forcing things. He's way too good a player for his offense not to come around."
One of Deng's shots came on a halfcourt heave to avoid a 24-second violation, three others on tip attempts. Thus, Deng really took just four shots in an offense where Rose now dominates the ball.
"It's definitely an adjustment," Deng said. "I'm going to the corner a lot and we're playing the top pick-and-roll. I have to find a way to be creative from there. Maybe we'll do some stuff in the post. We'll talk about it and figure something out.
"Obviously, I'm struggling trying to find a rhythm. I have to get certain shots. I have to look at tape and try to get better because I feel great out there. It's not like I'm hurt."
Deng isn't the only one adapting. Even after shooting 50 percent and playing a season-high 33 minutes, Gordon downplayed questions about the three-guard lineup's effectiveness.
"Everyone is still trying to get used to each other," Gordon said. "We're trying to get used to substitution patterns and the new system. We're not playing off each other. We have a very long way to go."
Gordon's wild runner came after Lewis missed the second of two free throws with the Magic leading 94-92 and 22.8 seconds remaining. Del Negro said he "wanted to see if we could get a quick score," choosing not to burn the Bulls' final timeout.
Gordon said differently.
"We were supposed to rebound and call timeout," Gordon said. "Instead we pushed it and I rushed the shot. Just a bad decision."