If the game were 50 minutes instead of 48, I think the Bulls would have found a way to grind out the win. However, they mounted their come back just a bit too late and similar to the Knicks game, couldn't make plays at the end despite multiple opportunities.
The Bulls MO to start the season was to get a huge lead early then blow it at the end and try to hang on. Their MO lately appears to be to give up a huge lead early and try and mount a furious second half rally.
The Bulls offense was again stale in the first half as they scored only 35 points, but they were respectable in the second and combined with great defense nearly erased the Magic lead. However, despite multiple chances, they couldn't get over the hump in another heart breaker.
Jimmy Butler would love this one back as he shot just one for 11 from the field. Marquis Teague nearly scored a 10 million which is the highest I remember ever seeing [On the UC scoreboard, there are minutes, followed by six positive categories, you get one million for every minute played without doing anything else positive in the box score].
D.J. Augustin looks like he'll genuinely improve the Bulls. While his play isn't good, he's so far ahead of Teague it's ridiculous. The fact that the Bulls brought in Augustin should tell you all you need to know about whether they're attempting to tank or not.
Chicago officially parted ways with Mike James, a move which comes as no surprise as he wasn't guaranteed and Chicago wasn't going to effectively pay an extra three million for Augustin once tax was factored in.
Bulls officially in lottery position
The Chicago Bulls have fallen to a two way tie for ninth in the East with the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the season ended today, the Cavs and Bulls would share the total ping pong balls combined by the 8th/9th slot evenly then flip a coin to see who goes first if neither wins the lottery.
That said, the Knicks have won four of their last eight which isn't impressive, but is certainly a rate that would surge them past the Bulls before the season ends. The Nets are also starting to come on a bit and will likely climb out of their present lottery hole to make the playoffs.
The real question is likely whether Charlotte will hold on to their playoff spot (presently seventh, but several teams will likely make a push at them) or whether they'll fall back into the lottery.
If Charlotte misses the playoffs, they'll keep their pick. The best non-playoff team in the East will still likely pick in the top nine which means their pick (even if they miss the playoffs by one spot) will be in their top 10 protected range. I'm fairly neutral on whether the Bulls get the Bobcats pick this year.
If they get it, then it will be 15th-17th which won't be incredibly great, but this is a strong draft, and Chicago might get a quality player there. If they don't get it, then there is only one more year of protection left on the pick, and the Bulls could potentially get a high unprotected pick in 2016 or a better pick in 2015.
I do expect the East to be strong in 2015 than this season which means I think the Bobcats have an excellent chance of being very poor again next year if they don't land a very good player in this draft [of course, there are lots of good players in this draft so they might]. Either way, I'd be content with #16 this year vs gambling on the future, but it could work in our favor either way.
The Bulls worst case scenario from a draft perspective might be to claw back into eighth and have the Bobcats fall to ninth and then only get their own pick at #15. A hell finish for the Bulls in the 7th/8th seed location with a first round matchup against one of the East's only elite teams while still getting lousy draft position.
Trades on the horizon?
Chicago will likely wait things out for a bit to pick the point where they say screw it, this season's just not happening. The signing of D.J. Augustin either means they haven't reached that point yet.
They may need to reach that point soon if they want to unload Luol Deng. The Suns have four picks in this drafted and already noted they're not looking to use them all and would like to package a couple for a star. Would they take Deng without having any decent SFs on their roster? Deng obviously is a FA at the end of the seasons, so the Suns would need to convince him to stay.
He's also not what I think of when I say "star" but he did make the last two all-star games.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would also like to take a step forward rather than backwards and could use Deng as well. They could trade the Bulls Clark, Miles, and Gee for Deng then the Bulls could waive Miles and possibly sneak under the luxury tax. A move Chicago might consider even without Cleveland throwing in a lotto protected 1st.
They could also do something around Dion Waiters if the earlier rumors of the Cavs looking to move on from Waiters were accurate.
A trade of Deng + Boozer for Pau Gasol might make sense for the Lakers if they want to upgrade some talent and would save Chicago some cash this year as well as plenty of it next year without forcing the Bulls to amnesty Boozer to remove his cap hit. That said, the Lakers could just bid on Deng next season without getting his bird rights now and not have to swallow Boozer's deal.
The move might make some sense for them though as they aren't so likely to care about the total salary and might even appreciate Boozer's extra talent (however small) relative to not having it even if he's over priced.
If the Bulls decide to get in on a Deng trade, they should look to move quickly. This will become a buyer's market awfully quick as there are few buyers, and there will likely be plenty of sellers before too long.