April 15, 2013
Orlando Magic Status Check:
Home Record: 12-28
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Streak: Lost 1
Last game: 120-88 loss to Boston
PPG: 94.3 (24th)
Opponents PPG: 101.0 (23rd)
Offensive Rating: 101.7 (27th)
Defensive Rating: 109.0 (25th)
Pace: 92.2 (14th)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .485 (20th)
Turnover Percentage: .137 (12th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .745 (7th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .253 (23rd)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .147 (29th)
Opp. eFG%: .506 (22nd)
Opp. TO%: .117 (30th)
Opp. FT/FGA: .197 (9th)
Leading scorer: Tobias Harris (17.1)
Stats from Basketball-Reference
Orlando Injury Report:
Arron Afflalo: out (torn ligament)
Glen Davis: out (foot surgery)
Jameer Nelson: out (sprained ankle)
Hedo Turkoglu: out (personal)
With two games remaining in the season, Chicago has fallen into sixth place in the Eastern Conference because of two losses to Toronto in the last week, as well as Sunday’s loss in Miami.
The Bulls are a full game back of Atlanta, with the Hawks two remaining games against Toronto and New York. If the Bulls lose tonight and the Hawks win Tuesday against the Raptors, Atlanta will clinch the fifth seed. In that scenario, Chicago would face Indiana, who is set in the three seed.
Chicago has won three close contests against the Magic this season, all decided by six or fewer points—they won those matchups by a combine nine points.
A late season game against the out-of-contention Magic shouldn’t be the toughest game, especially considering Arron Afflalo, Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson are all out.
Not that the Bulls don’t have injuries of their own, but Rip Hamilton should return from a one game suspension, while Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah may also be back in the lineup.
Tobias Harris, the Magic’s leading scorer is healthy and averaging 20.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per contest over the last ten games. Nikola Vucevic is adding 18.3 points and 15.7 rebounds over that same stretch (Vucevic played in seven of those ten games). Since returning he has recorded a double-double in every contest, and has tallied at least 20 rebounds twice.
The Bulls could use the rebounding of Noah and Gibson to try and slow Vucevic down on the glass, otherwise they will have to rely on Nazr Mohammed and Carlos Boozer.
Boozington grabbed 20 rebounds in Sunday’s loss to Miami, but the Heat are one of the worst rebounding teams in the league. The Magic aren’t very good on the offensive boards, ranking just 23rd, but are seventh in the league on the defensive glass.
Normally a team with the second-worst record in the NBA is exactly who you would want to play knowing you need a win if you want to have a chance to move into the fifth spot in the playoffs. But for the Bulls, it’s a mixed bag. They’ve lost four of their last five games against lottery opponents, the lone win coming against the Magic on April 5.
That was the game Beno Udrih torched Chicago for 27 points. The Bulls needed a fourth quarter comeback and Nate Robinson delivered, scoring 12 of his 19 points in the final frame to propel Chicago to a one point victory.
April 5, 2013
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.
November 7, 2012
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.
April 29, 2009
Early on in this series, I could have accepted and might even have been pleased with a moral victory. But that was then, and right now all I can see is a wasted opportunity that — in my mind, if not yet in fact — cost my team its last best chance of advancing to the second round of the playoffs. And yeah, it left me feeling like Mr. Furious…only I have slightly better fashion sense.
The first lesson in Playoffs 101 is: It’s never over ’till it’s over. With 7:18 left in the fourth quarter, Derrick Rose hit a nifty little jumper to put the Bulls up by 10 points (83-73), and it looked like the injury-riddled and increasingly weary champions were on the ropes. Every Chicago player was fighting so hard and playing so well that it looked they were really going to steal the Leprechaun’s lucky charms. As it turned out, the exact opposite was true. The Celtics became the aggressors and suddenly the Bulls were on their heels and falling over backward. (Or, in poor Kirk Hinrich’s case, right on his face.)
Over the next five minutes, Boston went on a 14-6 run that featured three layups by Rajon Rondo to cut Chicago’s lead to two (89-87) before Vinny Del Negro finally called a timeout to jam some gauze in the wound (although not before he let seven seconds run off the shot clock). I don’t know, maybe he was afraid of running out of timeouts after all the heat he took after Game 2. Or maybe he dozed off. I can’t be sure.
Maddeningly, Joakim Noah had his layup attempt blocked coming out of that timeout. Luckily for the Bulls, John Salmons nabbed the offensive board. Less than 10 seconds later, Salmons missed a three-pointer that was rebounded by Derrick Rose, who eventually managed to convert that third chance into a layup. Unfortunately, Rondo got downcourt in a hurry and hit another layup — his fourth of the quarter — after which Salmons had a short jump shot blocked by Kendrick Perkins, which led to a fast break layup for Paul Pierce that tied the game at 91-all. Timeout Chicago.
The breather didn’t help, because Rose immediately turned the ball over. It was Derrick’s sixth bumble of the game and his 20th in the last three games. I love this kid, I really do, but damn I wish he was taking better care of the ball. The teams traded possessions before Ben Gordon squeezed past Stephon Marbury and hit an absolutely ridiculous 17-footer with 16 seconds left. (Before the shot, Doug Collins practically screamed out “What is he doing?!”) Chicago by two.
Since Ray Allen had fouled out several minutes earlier — which should have turned the game irrevocably in the Bulls’ favor, right? — the ball went to Paul Pierce, who tied the game with a cold-blooded 15-footer. One ugly and ill-advised Gordon shot later, it was on to overtime. Again.
Pierce wasn’t done. Despite the fact that his shot had been broken most of the night, Paul dropped three straight bombs — from 16, 18 and 20 feet out — in the final 77 seconds of the OT. His final dagger, that 20-footer over a suddenly shell-shocked John Salmons, gave the C’s a 106-104 lead with three seconds left. Well, crap. Seems like I read somewhere that there’s no such thing as a hot hand. I guess science lied to me again.
Three ticks of the clock isn’t a lot of time, but Chicago ran a picture perfect play that was aided by some confused Boston defense, which gave Miller a wide-open lane straight to the bucket. Rondo stepped in and clubbed Brad across the face, not even close to a play on the ball, which these days is supposed to be a flagrant foul. However, I’ve been asked to refrain from wagging any fingers at the officials, so I’m not going to complain about that particular ripoff call. (But for the record, Charles Barkley agrees with me.)
What I am going to scream and kick about is the fact that Miller — who came into this game 11-for-13 (84.6 percent) from the line for the series — shanked the first free throw. (I can’t be too hard on the guy, though, considering Rondo’s hack job left him bleeding from the mouth.) That was the game. Brad had to miss the next freebie on purpose in the vain hope that one of his teammates might be able to corral the board and put it back in. No such luck. (He didn’t even hit the rim.) And the Celtics escaped with the win.
I guess that, in some ways, this defeat had a karmic feel to it. After all, the Bulls probably should have lost Game 4 because of missed foul shots. They were much better today, though, going 27-for-30 before those final (and fatal) two bricks. It was an yet another epic game in a classic series that , sadly, ended in a soul-crushing loss for the Bullies. And now its back to the United Center for a do-or-die Game 6. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go throw up in my own mouth now.
Boston Celtics player notes: With Pierce struggling for most of the game and Ray Allen (10 points, 3-for-8) limited to 26 minutes before fouling out, Boston once again turned to Rondo (game-high 28 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists). Hell, he was even 2-for-2 from downtown. (I thought that kid couldn’t shoot!) Rajon got some big help from “Big Baby” Davis (21 points, 7-for-11 from the field, 7-for-8 from the line) and Kendrick Perkins (game-high 19 rebounds, game-high 7 blocked shots, 16 points). The reserves only managed to chip in 5 points on 2-for-10 shooting, but Pierce came on late and finished with 26 points (11-for-22) and 7 rebounds.
Chicago Bulls player notes: Air Gordon shot like his shoulder (and not his hamstring) was busted up (6-for-21), but near-perfect foul shooting (11-for-12) enabled him to put up a team-high 26 points. Kirk Hinrichwas hot off the bench and came through with19 points (6-for-12), 4 boards, a steal and a block. Rose finished with 14 (7-for-16), 8 rebounds (4 offensive), 6 assists and 3 steals (not to mention those, ugh, 6 TOs). Noah had a MAN-type double-double (11 points, 17 boards), Tyrus came reasonably close (12 points, 8 rebounds), and Salmons scored 17 (5-for-15) to go along with 5 boards, 3 assists, a steal and a block.
More numbers: Chicago won the Battle of the Boards 50-44, which included a 14-9 edge on the offensive glass. Unfortunately, they didn’t do a very good job protecting the rim, which allowed Boston to hit 18 layups (twice as many as the Bulls). The teams were even on fast breaks (14 points each). The Bulls were +11 from the line (although they had the two biggest misses).
TrueHoop Network: Zach Lowe of Celtics Hub: “With the season on the line in overtime, the Celtics, thinner than they’vebeen all year long, simply threw out the playbook and let the two best players on the floor take them home with simple one-on-one plays. In the last two minutes of regulation and overtime, Boston shot 8-of-10 from the floor, and Paul Pierce and RajonRondo combined to hit seven of those field goals, including an epic five straight from the Captain. They manufactured points when Perkins was too tired to score, Ray Allen had fouled out, Marburywas afraid to shoot, Tony Allen was a non-factor and Glen Davis was forced out of the game by the Bulls small line-up. The last four Pierce baskets were jump shots, and the last three, including the game-winner with 3.6 seconds left, were simple pull-ups over John Salmons. I’m not sure where this ranks on the list of all-time clutch Pierce performances, but it’s up there.”
Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.
April 24, 2009
Ever had one of those bad dreams where everything goes wrong? Like, you’re in school but you don’t know your locker combination, haven’t got your books, didn’t do your homework, can’t find any of your classes, forgot to get dressed, and the teachers are all slavering, tentacled monsters who want to use your stomach as an incubator for their evil, writhing, larva-like offspring. We’ve all had those dreams, right? Right…?!
Well, the Bulls lived that dream last night. And I was there, “loving it live.” It was a surreal experience, like watching some horrible natural disaster unfold but not being able to help the victims. The crowd was stunned. Some were livid, others were simply too shocked to be angry. There was a lot of head shaking/nervous laughing going on. The woman next to me had a child on her lap. At one point, I turned to her and said: “It’s too bad your daughter has to see something like this.” She replied: “Fortunately, she’s only three years old, so if I’m lucky she either won’t remember it or she’ll repress it.” Good times. But not really.
Chicago suffered a meltdown so complete that at one point I started to wonder whether the United Center had been converted into a giant microwave. These couldn’t be the same Bulls that almost swept the first two games in Boston, could they? Seriously, I was ready to storm the locker room and check for Body Snatcher pods. I mean, newly minted Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose (9 points, 4-for-14, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 7 turnovers) wasn’t just thoroughly outclassed by Boston’s Rajon Rondo (20 points, 8-for-15, 11 boards, 6 assists, 5 steals), he was even outplayed by Stephon Marbury (13 points, 4-for-10, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, zero turnovers). Welcome to the Twighlight Zone, folks.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over by halftime, by which point the Bulls were already down by 22 points (59-37). And here are some fun first-half numbers for you: 14 turnovers, 9 missed free throws, 32 percent shooting. And things didn’t get any better in the second half. Vinny Del Negro became so desperate that he put in Tim Thomas to stem the tide. That led to the following sequence, which may rank among the worst possessions of all time: Thomas isolated at the three-point arc for 10 seconds, got his shot blocked by Kendrick Perkins, flopped to try and get the call and then committed a reach-in foul on Rondo, who had snared the rebound and was sprinting downcourt. Amazingly, Thomas got the ball again on Chicago’s very next possession…and had it stolen by Glen “Big Baby” Davis.
For the game, the Bulls committed 22 turnovers, gave up 24 points off those turnovers, shot 37.5 percent from the field and missed 10 of their 27 free throw attempts (mind you, they went 46-for-51 in Games 1 and 2). Going back to turnovers for a second, Boston’s 16 steals were the second-best total in their franchise playoff history, behind only the 18 they had in Game 5 of the 2008 Finals. On the bright side, Chicago won the rebounding battle (45-37) and outscored the Celtics by a point in the second half to lose only 107-86. Oh, and Vinny didn’t have to worry about saving any timeouts down the stretch. So they had that going for them…which is nice.
Speaking of coaching blunders, this game was further proof (in case you needed any) that Vinny isn’t Coach of the Year material quite yet. (Sorry, Peter Vecsey.) To the casual and slightly inebriated observer, it looked like the Celtics came to Chicago with a solid game plan, whereas it seemed like Del Negro just told his guys: “Keep doing what you’ve been doing, only rebound better. Now go get ‘em!” It’s funny how poor preparation becomes exceedingly glaring when Rose and Ben Gordon (15 points, 5-for-13) aren’t having career games.
So now the Bulls are behind 2-1 in the series, only it feels more like they’re down 8-1. That’s how discouraging this defeat was. I know it’s only one loss, and that they could come back to take Game 4, and maybe even win the series (though I highly doubt it). But this sure felt like one of those “told you so” defeats that reveals all the success and good vibes of the last couple months were just fool’s gold.
Update! TrueHoop Network: Zach Lowe from Celtics Hub: “The Bulls certainly didn’t help themselves. No team’s defense is good enough to truly force 22 turnovers against an NBA team. Twice on fast breaks Derrick Rose tossed ill-timed passes from the middle of the court to the left corner; one pass went out of bounds because no Bull was there to catch it. Rajon Rondo zoomed into the passing lane to intercept the second. It will be very interesting to see how the Bulls respond to this game. They looked tentative and unsure of themselves. Five days after the franchise’s biggest win in years, they find themselves coming off a blowout and needing to win a home game to keep this is a competitive series. Sunday is going to be interesting.”
Extras: Recap, Box Score, Play-By-Play, Shot Chart, Photos.