Orlando Magic Status Check:
Road Record: 8-30
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Streak: Lost 3
Last game: 98-84 loss to San Antonio
PPG: 94.3 (23rd)
Opponents PPG: 101.1 (23rd)
Offensive Rating: 101.9 (26th)
Defensive Rating: 109.2 (26th)
Pace: 92.2 (14th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .487 (19th)
Turnover Percentage: .136 (12th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .745 (7th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .250 (24th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .148 (29th)
Opp. eFG%: .507 (22nd)
Opp. TO%: .117 (30th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .198 (10th)
Leading scorer: Tobias Harris (16.1)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Orlando Injury Report:
Arron Afflalo: out (slightly torn hamstring)
Glen Davis: out (foot)
Jameer Nelson: doubtful (sprained ankle)
Hedo Turkoglu: out (personal)
It wasn’t pretty, but that wouldn’t be the Chicago Bulls way if it was. Carlos Boozer and company pulled out another win in a game which they really didn’t have a right being in, edging the Nets by two and pulling closer to the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Bulls shot 26.3 percent in the first quarter and turned it over six times as Brook Lopez outscored Chicago 18-13 in the first frame all by himself. The Bulls made five shots in the first 12 minutes, while Lopez made eight. Down 26-13, it looked as though the injuries might be too much for Chicago to overcome. You couldn’t blame them. Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Marco Belinelli, Derrick Rose and Rip Hamilton would make a solid starting five. With all of those guys out it would be easy to come out flat, fall behind by 16 and then coast the rest of the game and take the loss. But Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t allow that, and neither did the Bulls who were healthy.
Boozer led the way with an enormous double-double of 29 points and 18 rebounds. It wasn’t a one man show though, as Jimmy Butler got his own double-double (16 points, ten rebounds), Luol Deng dropped 18 points and Nate Robinson scored an efficient 12 off the bench, including the go-ahead bucket with 22 seconds left.
Brook Lopez, who had 28 points, missed a possible game-tying jumper at the end of the game that was grabbed by Daequan Cook as time expired. That Cook was on the court at the end of a two-point game shows what Thibs has to work with…and it isn’t much.
It’s going to be just as thin tonight presumably when the Bulls take on the Magic. Boozer logged 45 minutes, Deng played 42 and Butler recorded 43. Even Nazr Mohammed (37) and Kirk Hinirch (33), who fouled out in the fourth, logged heavy time. I guess when your bench options are Vladimir Radmanovic, Cook and Nate, you tend to rely heavily on anyone else.
Chicago is 9-7 on back-to-backs this year, although I’m not sure they’ve been as shorthanded as they will be tonight.
Orlando has lost 11 of their last 12 games, with ten of those 11 losses coming against playoff teams. The other loss was against the Bobcats, but who are the Bulls to look down on a team that loses to Charlotte? The Magic’s lone victory during that stretch was against the Wizards, a team that beat Chicago this week.
In the Magic’s defense, they too are fighting through some tough injuries. Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo have all been out recently, with Nelson being the only one with a chance to play tonight, although he is listed as doubtful.
The Bulls have squeaked out two wins over the Magic this season, by two and six points. But just as we were reminded last night, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is, it only matters if you get the win.
Orlando Magic Status Check:
Home Record: 7-10
Last 10 Games: 4-6
Streak: Lost 6
Last game: 112-110 overtime loss to Heat
PPG: 93.3 (26th)
Opponents PPG: 96.2 (10th)
Offensive Rating: 101.2 (29th)
Defensive Rating: 104.4 (12th)
Pace: 91.6 (17th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .489 (13th)
Turnover Percentage: .146 (28th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .753 (4th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .255 (21st)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .156 (29th)
Opp. eFG%: .483 (12th)
Opp. TO%: .120 (30th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .185 (6th)
Leading scorer: Arron Afflalo (17.0)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Magic Injury Report:
Gustavo Ayon: doubtful (bruised thigh)
Glen Davis: out (sprained shoulder)
Al Harrington: out (knee)
E’Twaun Moore: doubtful (sprained elbow)
Jameer Nelson: questionable (sore hip)
Other than Derrick Rose re-tearing his ACL, the Bulls’ 2012 ended about as badly as it could have: with a loss to the Bobcats. It not only ended Charlotte’s 18-game losing streak, but it was the Bobcats only win in the month of December.
The loss continued a trend of four straight games that the Bulls have looked like a lottery team. It started with two blowout losses to the Hawks and Rockets, continued with an ugly win over the NBA worst Wizards and culminated with the loss to Charlotte.
Luol Deng (20 points, 12 rebounds) and Carlos Boozer (19 points, 14 rebounds) both recorded double-doubles in the losing effort. Joakim Noah, who was apparently battling the flu and sure looked like something was wrong, only shot twice. Jo had no energy, grabbed only four boards and never really got into the game. Nate Robinson was 2-11, so it would probably have been better if he hadn’t gotten into the game. Marco Belinelli went back to his “old bench self,” meaning he was terrible as his role off the bench. He went 3-12 from the field before fouling out.
Nobody played well, the Bulls shot 35.1 percent as a team and once again got out-rebounded for the fourth straight game.The Bulls were without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich (who hasn’t been good this year), but the Bobcats were missing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Byron Mullens.
Luckily for the Bulls, they get another game against a lottery team. Bad news though, the Magic are on an six-game losing streak. The Bulls aren’t good in this kind of situation.
Orlando is coming off of a two-point overtime loss to the Heat. Arron Afflalo scored 29 points, JJ Redick added 23 and Nikola Vucevic cleaned the glass like non-other, grabbing a franchise-record 29 rebounds to go with 20 points. Who needs Dwight Howard, when Vucevic is pulling down 29 boards? The 12-19 Magic need Dwight Howard, that’s who.
As a team Orlando owned the rebounding battle, grabbing 17 more boards overall, and pulling down 18 offensive rebounds to the Heat’s nine.
The Magic rank 29th in offensive efficiency, which means hopefully the Bulls can outscore them. That isn’t a slam dunk though, as Chicago is 25th in offensive efficiency. The Bulls have scored less than 82 points in three of their last four games. The offense is broken, and probably won’t be fixed until Rose comes back.
But the Bulls can win if they slow down the Magic’s shooting guards. JJ Redick is averaging 14.4 points and starter Arron Afflalo is dropping a team-high 17.0 per game. Afflalo is up to 20.4 over his last five games, while Redick is scoring 16.2.
Perhaps this most recent loss will wake the Bulls up. Atlanta and Houston are solid teams so losing to them isn’t the worst thing that can happen. And then they pulled out a win against Washington, which probably didn’t teach the Bulls anything as they still came out with a win. But losing to the Bobcats is a slap in the face. No team wants to be the end of an 18-game losing streak. If this was a kick in the pants for Chicago, at least it will have some value.
The Orlando Magic entered last night’s game a surprising 2-0.
Possibly even more surprising was their post-Dwight Howard offensive uptick. In those two wins, the Magic scored 102 points against the Denver Nuggets and then 115 points against the Phoenix Suns.
The Bulls — who also had enjoyed a quick 2-0 start — were coming off a disappointing home loss to the New Orleans Hornets in which they were outworked and outplayed amid an offensive meltdown.
The bad news was two-fold for the Magic.
First: The Bulls currently lead the league in Defensive Rating — giving up only 95.3 points per 100 possessions — and had held their previous nine opponents below 90 points.
In other words, the Magic — who were missing Al Harrington, Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson — were highly unlikely to enjoy the same kind of offensive success they had against the Nuggets (currently 21st in Defensive Rating) and Suns (23rd in Defensive Rating).
Second: Under head coach Tom Thibodeau, the Bulls rarely lose two games in a row. It happened only four times during Thibodeau’s first season and only once last season. What’s more, the Bulls haven’t lost two games in the United Center since dropping five in a row (during a larger 10-game skid) in March of 2012. Back when, you know, Vinny Del Negro was coaching the team.
That trend continued last night as the Bulls put forth a much better offensive effort, scoring 99 points on 47.7 percent shooting and finishing with an Offensive Rating of 105.3.
That said, it wasn’t an overpowering win, nor a particularly pretty one.
The Bulls looked absolutely helpless against Arron Afflalo (game-high 28 points, 10-for-17, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) and trailed by as many as 7 points in the third quarter. Then — with Thibs employing an unusual lineup of Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Nate Robinson and Taj Gibson — Chicago outscored the Magic 31-23 in the final 12 minutes to secure the comeback victory.
Said Deng: ”This was a tough game. They’re playing well, and we lost our last game. It’s one of those we needed to win. You don’t want to lose two, then we’ve got Oklahoma (City) coming in. The fourth quarter was really good for the team.”
Deng certainly did his part, scoring 15 of his team-best 23 points in the second half — on 9-for-16 shooting — to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. And 8 of those points came in the fourth, off three mid-range jumpers and a couple free throws.
Noah did his part, too, racking up 20 points (7-for-13), 9 rebounds, 5 blocked shots and 4 assists. His 7 fourth-quarter points included two jumpers from about 20 feet out that were followed by some pretty enthusiastic finger pistols. He also fed Gibson for a dunk-and-foul with 39 seconds left. Taj completed the three-point play to put the Bulls up 96-89, which essentially put the game away.
The only two blights on Noah’s performance were 1) a missed free throw with 23 seconds to go and 2) a rushed (and needless) three-pointer with three seconds left. The first blight kept the Bulls stuck on 99 points — a mere one point away from earning the UC crowd free Big Macs — and the second blight was a rather misguided attempt to make up for the first.
Said Noah: “I got caught up in the moment. I regret it a little bit. It wasn’t a good shot. You have to respect the game because you never know what can happen in a game, I just got caught up in the moment and I was trying to get the people a Big Mac. They really wanted a Big Mac and I felt like, not only did I take the shot and miss the shot, we didn’t even get the Big Mac. Next time I won’t take that 3-pointer.”
Noah isn’t kidding. The crowd spent the last minute of the game concerned much more with the prospect of free food than Chicago’s 3-1 start. They groaned when Noah missed that free throw. They groaned even more loudly when Kirk Hinrich bricked two freebies 13 seconds later. And there was a collective “Awww!” when Noah’s ill-advised triple went astray.
Oh well. As Walt Disney used to say, always leave them wanting more.
Back to the game…this may have been the best performance of the new bench so far. The reserves contributed 29 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots. And, as noted, Butler (4 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal), Gibson (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Robinson (11 points, 5-for-8, 6 assists) were instrumental in Chicago’s fourth quarter comeback.
Those contributions were needed because Carlos Boozer (6-for-18) was struggling to locate his shot and Kirk Hinrich was solid (8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) but not providing the necessary spark.
Still too, it helped that the Magic were minus three projected starters, and that Glen Davis was so darn shot-happy. Last night, he led the Magic in field goal attempts (22) and missed field goal attempts (15)…and that included several air balls. Big Baby was averaging better than 25 points in Orlando’s first two games, but that doesn’t mean he should force up jumpers over taller opponents. But that’s what he did again and again.
Which played into the Chicago’s defensive plan.
Davis was also a big part in what may have been the game’s defining moment. With his team trailing only 93-89 and nearly a minute left in the game, Davis forced up a 26-footer that never had a chance of going in. It was, to be very generous, a questionable decision. In 341 career games, Davis has attempted a total of 39 three-pointers and converted only six of them, a “success” rate of 15.4 percent. What he was doing chucking a three in that circumstance is anyone’s guess.
The Bulls responded to Baby’s brain spasm with that play in which Noah fed Gibson for the dunk and contact. That two-way sequence turned a winnable game into a loss for the Magic.
So Bulls fans might consider sending Davis a thank you card.
On the other hand, The Bulls had their struggles with Afflalo, not to mention E’Twaun Moore (17 points, 7-for-13, 3-for-4 on threes) and Nikola Vucevic (16 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks).
The Bulls also lost track of Orlando’s three-point shooters, which helped the Magic go 8-for-19 from downtown (42 percent). By contract, Chicago attempted a mere six three-pointers, converting on only two of them.
I know it’s early, but the Bulls have attempted only 42 threes, which ranks 27th in the league. Worse, they’re shooting a dismal 26.2 percent from beyond the arc, which is 29th in the league. It’s always dangerous to draw too many conclusions from a four-game sample, but I can’t see these numbers changing much. The Bulls — without Derrick Rose and especially after the departure of Kyle Korver — aren’t going to get many threes this season.
But that’s a worry for another day.
Key Stat Part 1:
In their first two games, the Magic averaged 14 fast break points. Last night, they scored only 9.
Key Stat Part 2:
According to Hoopdata, the Bulls shot 18-for-36 (50 percent) from 16-23 feet. The “long two” is the worst shot in the game…but the Bulls were converting it last night.
Quote of the Night Part 1:
Robinson: “I think we wanted it more. I think at the end, we were more gritty. Coach said whatever it takes to get the win. So tonight, we had to gut it out.”
Quote of the Night Part 2:
Noah: “(Winning is) all that counts, but we need to play better. This isn’t going to cut it against a better team. We’ve just got to keep fighting.
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.