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Orlando Magic 111, Chicago Bulls 82

With injuries to Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, the cards were already stacked against the Chicago Bulls when they faced off against the Orlando Magic in front of a nationally-televised audience. Losing Derrick Rose to a wrist injury near the end of the first quarter, when he attacked the basket and collided with Dwight Howard, just exacerbated the discrepancy of talent between two teams heading in completely opposite directions. The Magic won the game by a score of 111-82, extending their winning streak to a season-high seven games.The Bulls' six-game losing streak is slowly taking the team out of the playoff picture with 16 games to go in the regular season. Vince Carter led Orlando with an efficient 23 points (8-13 FG, 2-5 3PT). Rookies Taj Gibson, with 12 points (6-10 FG) and 9 rebounds, and James Johnson, with 13 points (5-9 FG) and 3 steals, played relatively well for Chicago.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Bulls 93 88.6 42.2% 14.5 20.5 15.1
Magic 90 123.6 61.6% 37.7 35.5 23.4
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

If there’s one thing that’s been different about the Magic during their current win streak, it’s that the team is going for the kill against inferior teams. Orlando has been notorious this year for building up big leads, letting opponents hang around, and then lose games it has no business losing. Lately, though, the Magic have been putting teams away. Last night was another example of that.

In the first half, Orlando executed its offense to near perfection. A lot of 4-out/1-in offensive sets with Howard, a lot of pick and rolls with Carter, and more.

It was clear that Chicago’s strategy against Howard when he was on the low block was to double-team him. The gameplan worked a few times, as Howard turned the ball over here and there. But overall, Howard did a great job of passing and scoring in the post. Sometimes Howard would pass the ball, to a cutting Matt Barnes, for example. Other times Howard would go baseline, away from double-teams, and either score or draw the foul on a Bulls defender. That’s smart basketball.

For Carter, he could do no wrong on offense.

- [10:29] Carter three-point 25’ jump shot (J.J. Redick assist)
- [9:49] Carter 12’ turnaround jump shot
- [8:30] Carter 7’ running bank jump shot
- [7:59] Carter 6’ driving hook shot
- [6:13] Carter 14’ turnaround fadeaway jump shot
- [5:15] Carter 5’ hook shot

One word: Diversity.

That’s what stands out the most about how Carter scored. Oh, and Carter did all of his scoring while at small forward. With Mickael Pietrus out for the evening with a strained neck, Carter assumed some responsibilities at that position and things turned out well for him. Carter got his points from an assortment of plays, like the 3/4 pick and roll with Brandon Bass, the 3/5 pick and roll with Marcin Gortat, the 1/3 pick and roll with Jameer Nelson, etc. That’s a ton of pick and roll variety, by the way. Nevertheless, Carter did his thing, whether it was in the post, around the perimeter, or at the rim.

With the Magic up by 34 at halftime, the remainder of the night allowed the team’s bench to play extended minutes. Out of the six Orlando reserves who saw time on the floor, Bass and Gortat made the most of their opportunities. Bass had 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks, while Gortat had 7 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Each player had a signature highlight in the game, too. For Bass, he got a monster block on Acie Law, ran down the court on the fast break, and was rewarded with the layup off a nifty pass by Anthony Johnson. For Gortat, he had two alley-oop dunks.

Ryan Anderson got some playing time, also, at power forward and at small forward with Pietrus out. It should be noted that when Anderson played the four, Bass played the five.

All in all, it was an impressive victory for Orlando. Yes, Chicago was out-manned, out-gunned, out-everything but a win is a win. And Orlando needs ‘em all, as it looks to continue to outpace the Atlanta Hawks and the Boston Celtics for the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Magic will have a chance to extend their winning streak to eight games when they face off against the Washington Wizards on Saturday night.