CHICAGO — Throughout the first season of the Chicago Bulls’ rebuilding effort, coach Fred Hoiberg hasn’t had much reason to question his team’s effort.
That’s continued to be the case during the Bulls’ recent rough patch when they have lost eight of their past nine games while playing without starting guard Kris Dunn. After Chicago snapped a seven-game losing streak Friday with a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, they remained close against the Washington Wizards on Saturday before fading down the stretch.
Chicago (19-36) was forced to play without guard Zach LaVine, who is unable to play on the back end of back-to-backs while he continues to move closer to 100 percent after coming back from a torn ACL.
As the Bulls prepare to host the Orlando Magic Monday, LaVine will attempt to keep Chicago’s skid from continuing. But the frustration of not being able to contribute as much as he would like still is evident for LaVine.
“You get your rhythm that way, you know, playing back-to-back nights,” LaVine said on Saturday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “But it’s something I’ve just got to do for my safety this year, and it sucks. I’m here supporting (my teammates) and I think we have more than enough to win.”
The Bulls played well enough in stretches Saturday to extend their winning streak to two games. But Chicago failed to score for the final 4:14 of the fourth quarter in a 101-90 loss to the Wizards.
Chicago missed its final seven shots while playing without LaVine, who scored 35 points in the win over Minnesota on Friday.
“It had nothing to do with effort,” Hoiberg told reporters Saturday, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Our guys came out after an emotional night. We hung in there and stayed in the game.”
Orlando (18-37) enters Monday’s game coming off a 111-104 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Magic were done in by erratic 3-point shooting. After starting Saturday’s game connecting on seven of their first 13 attempts, the Magic then missed 14 straight shots from beyond the arc.
The inconsistency ended up costing Orlando in the end. Jonathan Simmons got the Magic to within two with a late 3-pointer, but could never hit the shot they needed down the stretch.
“We just couldn’t make a shot,” guard D.J. Augustin told reporters Saturday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “We were getting good looks. It happens. Some nights you’re hot. Some nights you’re not. In that second half, we couldn’t get anything to fall from there.”
The Magic hope to bounce back on Monday against the Bulls, who continue to play without Dunn as he remains out with a concussion. Whether the Magic can find more consistency in their shooting touch after being disrupted by Milwaukee’s length will go a long way toward getting back on track in Chicago, which has beaten Orlando twice this season.
Despite his team’s inconsistency Saturday, Magic coach Frank Vogel has seen a marked improvement in its play.
“This is what my teams should look like and this is what I demand of them,” Vogel told reporters Saturday, according to the team website. “This is the standard of how we want to play — whoever is in uniform. We’re going to play extra-pass basketball and build an extra-pass culture and the competitive spirit on the defensive end is going to be about fighting, getting loose balls and physicality. It takes time for this stuff to develop, but it looks pretty good right now because guys are competing at a high level.”