The Orlando Magic visit another Eastern Conference contender tonight when they play the host Chicago Bulls at United Center. On the strength of Derrick Rose's tremendous play, Chicago's earned a 31-14 record, including 21-4, establishing it as a legitimate threat to the Magic, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat for East supremacy. The third-year point guard ranks 7th in scoring (24.6 points per game) and 10th in assists (8.1 per game), so it's no surprise the fans honored him by selecting him to start alongside the Magic's Dwight Howard in the NBA All-Star Game.
The Bulls, for all their greatness, face a tough challenge against Orlando tonight. The Magic played arguably their best game of the season in the first meeting between these teams this season, routing Chicago by a 107-78 margin as Jameer Nelson (24 points, 9 assists) outdueled Rose (15 points, 4 assists) at point guard. Orlando also limited Bulls center Joakim Noah to 0 rebounds, which is what he'll grab tonight on the bench as he recovers from a thumb injury.
Orlando has a healthy respect for Rose, as comments from coach Stan Van Gundy and Howard indicate. And it ought to. But offense, not defense, has to be a greater concern against this Bulls team, which has the league's best defense itself; as David Steele, Orlando's top-notch television play-by-play man points out, only one of the Bulls' last 20 opponents has crossed the 100-point mark. If Nelson can't break Rose down off the dribble in pick-and-roll sets, the Magic might be in trouble. Fortunately, they also have Hedo Turkoglu now to help keep the ball moving.
Not that defense isn't important, obviously. Orlando's allowed its last two opponents to have at least two players score 20-plus points. If that happens against Chicago, with Rose and perhaps Luol Deng popping off, the Magic can forget winning this one, as the Bulls' defense is more than capable of holding Orlando down.
The Magic will need Howard on the floor to add an interior dimension to their offense. He'll face the cagey veteran Kurt Thomas tonight. Thomas is an intelligent, strong defender who knows how to use his body to muscle offensive players out of the way, but he mixes that skill with an enviable ability to pull the chair out, drawing traveling violations and offensive fouls. Howard, therefore, needs to be wary of Thomas whenever he tries backing him down. I'd advise that he turn, face, and try to use his considerable quickness advantage to blow by Thomas instead.
|2010/2011 NBA Season|
|30-16 (13-10 road) |
|31-14 (21-4 home) |
|January 28th, 2011|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Derrick Rose|
|Jason Richardson||SG||Keith Bogans|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||Luol Deng|
|Brandon Bass||PF||Carlos Boozer|
|Dwight Howard||C||Kurt Thomas|
|December 1st: Magic 107, Bulls 78|
|2010/11 Advanced Stats|
|92.0 (17th)||Pace||91.7 (18th)|
|108.7 (11th)||ORtg||105.5 (T-20th)|
|102.3 (T-4th)||DRtg||99.4 (1st)|