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Bulls continue nosedive with 83-82 loss to Magic

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Updated: December 16, 2013 11:26PM



The big question at the United Center was not: Would Detroit lose on Monday Night Football and enhance the Bears’ playoff chances?

Considering the way things are going for the Bulls, that was probably in the discussion, though.

No, the sagging Bulls and their apprehensive fans were wrestling with these two issues:

First, would the Bulls snap out of their funk against the Orlando Magic, who brought their own icy streak to frozen Chicago?

The second question: With Kirk Hinrich sidelined by a stiff back for the second straight game, would one of the two point-guard understudies turn in a performance?

Answer No. 1: Finishing strong after trailing 63-46, the Bulls put on a late rally, but came up short, losing 83-82 to Orlando. It was the Bulls’ 11th loss in 14 games. The Magic won for only the second time in 10 games.

``We were down big,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. ``We started grinding, started playing a lot harder and we had a shot at it. You hate to be playing from behind all the time.’’

That said, Thibs still believes.

``I think these games are winnable,’’ he said. ``We can’t hang [our heads]. To have success, you have to be able to pick yourselves up.’’

Missing too many layups, including one by Luol Deng with 2.9 seconds left and the Bulls trailing 81-79, the Bulls shot 34.6 percent.

``I had a good angle,’’ Deng said of his baseline drive. ``We played hard enough to win the game. I missed the layup. That’s on me.’’

Aaron Afflalo led the Magic with 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting. The Bulls got 26 from Luol Deng (8 for 16). And Joakim Noah (13 points, 8 rebounds) was clutch down the stretch.

But Carlos Boozer (3 for 10), Jimmy Butler (1 for 11) and Taj Gibson (1 for 7) were a combined 5 for 28, for 13 points. Which is not going to get it done.

``We kept pushing; we just came up short,’’ Gibson said. ``It’s tough, man. We’re losing to teams we’re supposed to be beating. We have to do better, including myself. This one hurt tonight. We just have to do better.’’

Answer No. 2: The backup point-guard contest apparently is no contest. In his third game with the Bulls, D.J. Augustin filled in solidly for Hinrich, relegating Marquis Teague back to obscurity.

Augustin had 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting, with eight assists in 37 minutes. Teague was scoreless and had no assists in 11 minutes.

``I thought D.J. played really well for us,’’ Thibodeau said. ``He created a lot of good opportunities for us. We didn’t convert, but he got us into a pretty good rhythm. I think he’s going going to be good.’’

EMAIL: hgould@suntimes.com

TWITTER: @herbgould



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