Hedo Turkoglu celebrates his game-winning jump-shot in the Orlando Magic's thrilling 112-110 overtime victory over the host Chicago Bulls on New Year's Eve.
Photo by Gary Dineen, NBAE/Getty Images
The Magic closed out 2007 in style by defeating the Bulls in a New Year's Eve matinée by a final score of 112-110. Orlando overcame a fantastic performance by Chicago's Ben Gordon, who came off the bench to score 39 points on 16-of-27 shooting. Luol Deng added 21 points for Chicago, which dropped to 2-1 under Jim Boylan, its new interim head coach. Here's the box score for today's game, and here is ESPN.com's highlight reel. Don't blink at the beginning or you'll miss Keyon Dooling's tremendous tomahawk dunk.
It was a playoff-like atmosphere in Chicago, with both teams exerting extra effort on both ends of the floor. The crowd also got into it. Indeed, had it been a playoff game, especially given its spectacular finish -- Hedo Turkoglu hit a game-winning fifteen-footer with 0.7 seconds left in overtime -- it likely would have ended up on ESPN Classic the next morning. As it is, both teams should be happy with their efforts, especially considering the holiday.
Carlos Arroyo started at point guard for Orlando, even though Jameer Nelson, who had started 131 consecutive games, was healthy enough to play. Arroyo did a great job of running the offense early, and made good decisions. In addition to tallying 4 assists to just 1 turnover, Carlos made each of his 7 field-goal attempts, which indicates he picked his spots correctly. Nelson came off the bench to lead us in scoring with 22 points. Surprisingly, he was a difference-maker on the defensive end, drawing two charges and coming up with several loose balls to swing momentum in our direction. It appears as though Arroyo has taken Nelson's starting job, and he's earned it. If Jameer continues to play this well off the bench, the move will have been for the best.
Keith Bogans should be commended for his defense on Ben Gordon. Yeah, I know, Gordon scored a ton of points, but he had to work for each and every one of them. Bogans had a hand in Gordon's face on seemingly all his shot attempts; it's just that the shots were dropping. Perhaps Bogans' tenacious defense played a role in Gordon wearing down in overtime, forcing him to miss badly on what would be Chicago's last significant shot attempt (Ben Wallace was credited for his halfcourt heave at the final buzzer).
Despite not scoring much, Dwight Howard really made the difference more than any other player in this game. His defense was outstanding, but that might have more to do with the fact that he was able to stray away from Wallace as much as he wanted to. With under a minute remaining in the fourth quarter, Gordon ran a pick-and-roll with Wallace. As Wallace, an offensive non-factor, rolled to the basket, Howard showed sharply, driving Gordon nearly to halfcourt before reaching in and swatting the ball away. Jameer Nelson recovered the ball, drew a shooting foul on Gordon, and tied the game on the ensuing free throws.
Rashard Lewis is conspicuous in his absence in today's recap, so I'll offer this information: Lewis played well, scoring 19 points on just 13 shot attempts. He also finished with a team-high 6 assists. However, he shot only 2 free throws, which illustrates his lack of offensive assertiveness. Perhaps he would get the chance to be the hero if he were to drive the ball to the basket more often. Lewis is the our highest-paid player and also our most scrutinized. He was hailed before the season as a guy who could play the role of go-to scorer. Yet Stan Van Gundy didn't trust him enough on the game's final possession to call his number, instead opting to put the ball in Turkoglu's hands. Yes, Turk has played phenomenally this year, but he had a horrible game today: just 7-of-19 shooting (6-of-18 before his game-winner went in) to go with 7 turnovers. So, I pose this question: What does Rashard Lewis have to do to supplant Hedo Turkoglu as Orlando's number-one crunch-time scorer?
The Magic finish the 2007 portion of this season with a 22-11 record, including 8-7 in December. They'll have New Year's Day off before facing the struggling New Jersey Nets on Wednesday.