Tonight, the Orlando Magic return to the United Center to face the Chicago Bulls for the first time since the Bulls soundly out-worked and out-played them on January 2nd. The Bulls are among the league's worst offensive teams due to their reliance on the long two-pointer, attempting 29.1 of them per game, to just 11.5 three-pointers. But Chicago has managed a .500 record due to its outstanding defense, ranking first in opponent free-throw rat, 6th in effective field goal percentage allowed, and 7th in defensive efficiency. Orlando is an elite defensive team in its own right, but has the offense to match, which could prove to be the difference tonight.
|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|February 10th, 2010|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Derrick Rose|
|Vince Carter||SG||Kirk Hinrich|
|Matt Barnes||SF||Luol Deng|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Taj Gibson|
|Dwight Howard||C||Brad Miller|
|January 2nd: Bulls 101, Magic 93|
Thing is, Chicago has that whole effort thing going for it, which is partially responsible for its earlier win over the Magic. Orlando struggled to box out the likes of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Brad Miller. Though Noah will miss tonight's game, the effort question remains. Rashard Lewis--who gamely battled David West for a key offensive board off a Dwight Howard free-throw miss on Monday--must really assert himself against Gibson, whose hard work, in concert with Tyrus Thomas' bad attitude, has buried the younger, more talented Thomas on the bench. Kelly Dwyer has no doubt that Thomas will blossom with whichever team acquires him before next week's trading deadline.
I expect the Magic will take their earlier loss to heart and will thus play smarter, better ball tonight. They can live with Derrick Rose and Luol Deng launching those long two-pointers so long as they're well contested, and that they secure the defensive board to limit Chicago's opportunities. On the other end, it's important for Howard to run the floor and establish deep post position, because the Bulls are second only to the Magic in defending shots taken at the rim. Better to attack in transition before the defense can set than to take your chances in the half-court, yes?