Here are some quick facts about the Orlando Magic:
At 13-4, they’re leading the Southeast Division and tied for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
They rank 1st in Defensive Rating (100.1) and 12th in Offensive Rating (107.5).
Offensive Four Factors:
2nd in Effective Field Goal Percentage (.530), 13th in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt (.242), 17th in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (.258) and 27th in Turnover Percentage (.153).
Defensive Four Factors:
3rd in Defensive Rebounding Percentage (.772), 6th in Opponents Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt (.215), 8th in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage (.476) and 8th in Opponents Turnover Percentage (.147).
Obviously, Dwight Howard (21.8 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 59 percent shooting) is the foundation of Orlando’s offense and defense.
Offensively, the Magic go inside-out: Post Howard, draw the double team, kick out to open shooters. That’s a big part of why they’re ranked 2nd in the league in three-point attempts (418). Defensively, the Magic players funnel their men toward Dwight, who’s always a blocked or intimidated shot waiting to happen. Not surprisingly, Howard currently leads the NBA in Defensive Rating (92.2).
So how do you beat them?
Well, it’ll help if Joakim Noah can shut down or contain Howard. Too bad he didn’t talk to John Elway in that steam room. Maybe Elway could have made a few suggestions.
I checked out Orlando’s splits at Basketball-Reference, and the most glaring difference between their 13 wins and four losses were their fouls committed and their opponents’ free throws attempted. In those losses, the Magic committed three more fouls per game (21.5 to 18.5) and gave up almost seven more free throw attempts per contest (27.3 to 20.7).
In their first three losses, Howard committed 16 fouls and fouled out once.
The Bulls need to be aggressive, force the action and attack the basket. They have to challenge Howard and, hopefully, get him into foul trouble.
Unfortunately, that’s not really one of Chicago’s strengths, considering they rank 19th in Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt. But it’s worth noting that in their nine wins, the Bulls averaged 29.3 FTAs. In their six losses, they averaged 23.7 FTAs.
Of course, if Carlos Boozer returns to action, he might be worth a few more foul shots. Still no word on whether he’ll play though.
Said Boozer: ”I may or may not play (Wednesday). I feel close. If not Wednesday, then I’m hoping this weekend for sure.”
Naturally, no discussion of the Bulls’ chances would be complete without mention of Bulls.com’s Sam Smith’s early season pick for MVP. Derrick Rose currently ranks 2nd in PPG (26.6) and 8th in APG (8.2). And, as Smith points out, “[Rose] just brought the Bulls off perhaps their toughest road trip in a decade with a 4-3 record while averaging 30 points. And this with every defense focused solely on him with no other true scorer on the team, certainly no one to create a shot.”
As everybody knows, this is Derrick’s team. And they’re going only as far as he can take them.