Chicago Bulls 97, Orlando Magic 83

The Orlando Magic fell to the Chicago Bulls, 97-83, on Friday in a game which underscored the distance between them and the East's elite. Dwight Howard posted 28 points, 15 boards, two assists, and two blocked shots, but did not get enough help from his teammates. Chicago, in contrast, had three players score 20-plus points, and another just shy at 18. It also outrebounded the Magic, 46-37, and did a better job controlling the ball, committing 12 turnovers to Orlando's 18. "Quite simply, we are not at that level," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said in his opening remarks after the game. That point is a difficult one to contest.

That the Bulls outscored the Magic by 10 points in second-chance opportunities and grabbed one-third of their own misses tells only part of the story. "They react to things quicker [and] go a lot harder," Van Gundy said. "They understand the value of possessions. We're not nearly physical enough in terms of blocking people out," he continued.

Van Gundy said three factors led to Orlando's defeat: rebounding, turnovers, and ball movement. He said the last point is one he's discussed with his coaching staff prior to Friday, but will begin to address with the team soon. Orlando came out with plenty of energy and moved the ball well, creating open looks on the weak side and forcing the Bulls to rotate. The energy wore thin, though, and Orlando's offense ground to a halt as players started looking for their own shot.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Bulls 89.3 108.7 48.8% 15.1 33.3 13.4
Magic 89.3 93.0 44.7% 21.3 22.0 20.2
Green denotes a stat better than the team's 2010/11 average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's 2010/11 average.

In assessing the loss, point guard Jameer Nelson kept a level head. "It's tough; it's not like they basically killed us in half court defense." He's right, in a sense, with one notable exception: Luol Deng, who torched Orlando in the halfcourt, one-on-one, with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting. Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose combined for 41 points, but shot just 16-of-37 from the floor to get there. Kyle Korver came off the Bulls' bench and pumped in 18 points in 31 minutes, and as Van Gundy pointed out, at least two of Korver's five three-pointers came off second-chance opportunities.

With Orlando trying to rally in the fourth quarter, Van Gundy played Hedo Turkoglu at power forward, moving away from starter Ryan Anderson and backup Glen Davis. Van Gundy was dissatisfied with Anderson's performance, saying four times "he didn't get in the battle" against Chicago. After the game, Anderson approached Howard, a team co-captain, at Howard's locker for an extended, private conversation. He later explained he wanted to assure Howard he doesn't want to let him down, and he knows he needs to play better.

Jason Richardson scored 17 points, second only to Howard in the Magic scoring column, but his performance didn't particularly impress. The 6-of-13 shooting from the field is okay. But he added just three rebounds and two assists in 36 minutes while committing four turnovers, throwing several other poor passes, and whiffing defensively. This night wasn't one of Richardson's better ones, despite his scoring. Ordinarily, the Magic can rely on J.J. Redick to provide some scoring when Richardson struggles, but Redick played even worse. He missed all four of his shot attempts and scored just 1 point in 22 minutes. He left the locker room without addressing the media.

Indeed, Orlando got precious little from its role players. Van Gundy complimented the play of Davis and backup point guard Chris Duhon, saying they were the only two of his players to "make a concerted effort to help our offense." Davis shot just 2-of-8 from the floor for 8 points, but hauled in 10 rebounds and shied away from taking long jumpers, instead trying to drive to the basket. The boxscore says the Bulls blocked Davis only twice, but that figure seems low to me. At all rates, Davis and his Magic teammates struggled to convert in the immediate basket area, and Friday's game would have been far closer had they finished those plays.

Duhon, for his part, dished a team-high four assists in 16 minutes. He also struggled to keep his man in front of him defensively, however, yielding open driving lanes to Rose and even lightly regarded backup John Lucas III.

This is not a game Orlando will want to remember, but it's one it ought to: performances like Friday's happen when the team does not play cohesively.

The Magic have signs reading TOUGH SMART TOGETHER throughout their locker room, but Friday they allowed Chicago to adopt that mantra.

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