The Orlando Magic are coming off an extremely embarrassing 100-84 loss to the league bottom-feeders, the Charlotte Bobcats. The Magic will have a chance to redeem themselves when they take on the Chicago Bulls Thursday night. The Bulls have won eight straight games and have the league’s best record at 33-8. Orlando enters the game with a record of 25-15, good for third in the east.
These two teams met in Orlando on January 6. The Bulls held off a Magic rally and won 97-83. Derrick Rose and Luol Deng each had 21 points while Dwight Howard had 28 points and 15 rebounds.
The Magic rank 13th in offensive rating (104.0), 12th in defensive rating (101.6) and play at the league’s fourth-slowest pace (89.5). The Bulls are third in offensive rating (108.5) and second in defensive rating (97.9). Chicago plays at the 21st-fastest pace in the league (90.1).
Tip-off from the the United Center in Chicago, Illinois is scheduled for 8:00 pm EST. The game will be shown nationally on TNT.
As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen on the radio – in English on AM 580 WDBO and in Spanish on AM 1270 WRLZ.
The officials for tonight’s game are Bill Spooner, Courtney Kirkland and Karl Lane.
The Line: Chicago -7.5 (183.5)
The Bulls will likely be without guards Richard Hamilton (sprained right shoulder) and C.J. Watson (sprained left ankle).
The Bulls don’t make it complicated – they have compiled the league’s best record because they rebound and play excellent defense, finishing first in both categories last season. The Bulls are again the best rebounding team – their rebounding rate is 53.4%, best in the NBA, but are second in defensive rating (Philadelphia is first).
However, despite Richard Hamilton’s limited impact because of injury issues, Chicago, who was just 12th in offensive rating last year, is third this season, trailing only the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Obviously, when you talk about the Bulls’ offense, you have to start with Derrick Rose. The 2010-11 MVP shot just 7-of-18 in the first meeting between the two teams, but hit some timely shots and wound up with 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds. The Magic did an admirable job on Rose, but let Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng combine for 41 points.
Dwight Howard overcame a deep big man rotation to dominate the Bulls’ bigs last time around and if the Magic are going to beat the Bulls, Howard will probably have to be even better than this time.
Howard’s going to need help on the glass – Chicago’s timely offensive rebounding was the key to their victory in Orlando and they grabbed 46 rebounds to Orlando’s 37. Howard pulled down 15 boards and Glen Davis had 10, but the rest of the team combined for just 11, including Ryan Anderson, who had a disappointing three rebounds. Stan Van Gundy continues to stress the importance of defensive rebounding and wants Anderson to have a bigger impact on the defensive glass.
Chicago hit eight threes to Orlando’s seven in the first meeting while attempting six fewer shots from beyond the arc. If the Magic want to have any chance to win Thursday, they have to outscore the Bulls from the outside.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HtD app here)
Topics: C.j. Watson, Carlos Boozer, Chicago Bulls, Chris Duhon, Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, J.j. Redick, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Joakim Noah, Larry Hughes, Luol Deng, Omer Asik, Orlando Magic, Otis Smith, Quentin Richardson, Richardson Hamilton, Ryan Anderson, Stan Van Gundy, Taj Gibson, Von Wafer