Chicago Bulls lose big to Orlando Magic, 107-79

Tribune reporter

ORLANDO — Maybe it's time to go bowling again.

For the sake of Earl Anthony's memory, let's hope the Bulls were better at their off-day diversion than they were playing basketball Wednesday night when they stunk up Amway Arena in a 107-79 pasting by the Magic.

If you're wondering why Linton Johnson III played the fourth quarter of Wednesday's debacle without his name on his jersey, equipment manager John Ligmanowski didn't have time to get one stitched after Johnson signed a 10-day contract earlier in the day.

If you're wondering why Johnson was playing mere hours after learning even the most rudimentary of the Bulls' terminology, well, that's what happens when the regulars don't show.

Johnson, Lindsey Hunter, Anthony Roberson, Aaron Gray and Tyrus Thomas finished this stinker and actually raised the Bulls' shooting percentage to 31.4 percent after it hovered near their season-low mark of 29.8 percent all game. Thanks to Roberson's two late three-pointers, the Bulls surpassed their season-low of 74 points.

In fact, the starters might have flip-flopped the concept of garbage time given their stinky start.

"Our starters didn't get off to a good start," coach Vinny Del Negro said. "They weren't moving the ball.… The flow of the game was bad from the jump ball."

The Bulls missed their first six shots, didn't score until Brad Miller converted a fast-break layup 3 minutes 47 seconds after tipoff and had six of their 18 turnovers in the first quarter.

Throw out John Salmons' team-high 18 points on 5-for-12 shooting, and the other four starters combined to shoot 21 percent.

Derrick Rose missed 10 of 12 shots. Ben Gordon, so brilliant in Miami with 43 points and eight three-pointers, failed to score a first-half field goal and bricked 9 of 10 shots overall.

"I felt good out there," Gordon said.

With friends and family in the stands, Joakim Noah said he did too. But two fouls in the first 58 seconds trying to guard Dwight Howard sent him to the bench, and he played only 11:34 overall.

The Bulls dropped into a virtual tie with Milwaukee for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, pending a late score from New Jersey-Golden State.

Tony Battie's 18 points topped Orlando, which led by as many as 38 and clinched a playoff berth despite playing without Hedo Turkoglu.

It's hard to believe the Bulls beat this team by 18 points two weeks ago, albeit at the United Center. The Bulls have lost five straight road games since.

"We have to figure out how to win on the road to make the playoffs," Noah said.

Or else they will have plenty time for bowling.

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