From “A Game To Remember” to “A Game I Want To Forget As Soon As Humanly Possible” in less than 48 hours. Losing to Dwyane Wade’s superhuman performance was painful, sure, but it provided some small sense of hope. I mean, it took a handful of mini-miracles from an MVP-caliber player to beat the Bulls. That had to be a good sign, right? What I didn’t realize was that the sign read “Danger: Sharp Drop Ahead.” I was able to take only three positives from the 107-79 smackdown the Magic put on my guys: First, that nobody suffered a major injury. Second, that the earth didn’t open up and swallow the team. Third….uh…you know what? That’s it. There weren’t any more positives.
Troubling fact: Rashard Lewis (Orlando’s second-leading scorer) went 0-for-9 and Hedo Turkoglu (the Magic’s third-leading scorer) didn’t even play. And Chicago lost by 28. Yeah. It was that bad.
It’s tempting to believe that this game was lost during the third quarter, during which the Magic outscored the Bulls 37-17 to take an insurmountable 32-point lead. That certainly was the knockout punch, but the Bulls had already been staggering around in a daze and struggling just to stay on their feet for most of the game. No, this battle was lost in the first twelve minutes. Dwight Howard got whistled for two early fouls and was summoned to the bench at the 6:41 mark. Enter Marcin Gortat.
Now, you’d think that the Gortat-for-Howard substitution would have worked in Chicago’s favor, but you’d be wrong. Dead wrong, as a matter of fact. Gortat owned the next five minutes and 19 seconds. I’m being completely serious. He scored 8 points on a tip-in, two layups and a nine-foot jumper. He grabbed 5 rebounds. Three of those boards were on the offensive end; one led to his tip-in and he tossed another out to J.J. Redick for a 28-foot three-pointer that gave the Magic a 24-11 lead with 59 seconds left in the quarter. What, did the Bulls forget Marcin was out there?
Said Gortat: “I really don’t care if they respect me or not. I’m just going to try to punish them and do my job. If that was one of the reasons why, if they disrespected me today, that was one of the reasons they lost.” He’s not wrong. Keep in mind that Gortat averages 3.2 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Gortat finished with 13 points (6-for-8) and a game-high 15 rebounds (including a game-high 5 offensive boards). And he wasn’t the only member of Orlando’s reserve corps that sucker-punched the Bulls into submission. Tony Battie took a break from nailing wide-open jumpers only to posterize Brad Miller on a baseline dunk en route to scoring 18 points (7-for-11) and snaring 8 rebounds. Redick added another 13 points on 4-for-6 shooting. In all, the Magic bench chipped in 56 points…only 23 fewer than the Bulls scored in the game.
Marcin Gortat, Tony Battie and J.J. Redick. Those aren’t the guys who are supposed to beat you. That’s not supposed to happen.
Of course, the Bulls made some significant contributions to their own defeat. They shot 27-for-86 (31.4 percent). They committed 18 turnovers (although it felt like twice that many). The Magic transformed those turnovers into 21 points (although, again, it felt like twice that many). They got beaten on the boards (53-44). The defense was a joke: Their rotations were terrible, they were repeatedly (and embarrassingly) burned on simple pick and roll plays and their hands were too often at their sides while Magic players were stroking jumpers.
Ben Gordon must have emptied his clip in Miami, because he shot 1-for-10 and finished the game with a plus-minus score of -34. Derrick Rose (2-for-12) wasn’t much better. Joakim Noah (4 points, 5 rebounds and 4 fouls in 12 minutes) couldn’t stay on the floor. Brad Miller looked old and slow. John Salmons shot 5-for-12 and he was the Bulls’ top performer by far (he finished with 18 points and 8 boards).
And that brings us to Tyrus Thomas. I’ve tried to be patient with him. I’ve tried to defend him. I’ve tried to embrace the notion that he is part of The Future in Chicago. I’ve pleaded with Vinny Del Negro to give him minutes, to work with him, to focus on his development. But I’ve got to tell you: Tyrus is driving me nuts. He took 13 shots against the Magic. Two of them were attempted within his range (i.e., at the rim) while 11 of them were jumpers. Quick quiz: Is Tyrus Thomas a jump shooter? Quick answer: NOOOOOOOO! (For further reading, see Not Qualified To Comment.) Why is he so quick to chuck it up from the outside? Dwight Howard was in foul trouble for most of the first half, but instead of taking it to Howard and trying to get him off the floor, Tyrus was content to just let ‘em fly.
Ty’s coverage on pick and rolls was almost as awful as his shot selection. His lackadaisical help on the pick and roll led to three wide open layups for Rafer Alston during that killer third quarter. Tyrus honestly looked like he had no idea what to do in that situation. He didn’t crash the offensive boards either. He finished with a measely 5 rebounds in 37 minutes. It was a lifeless performance. I was honestly ready to trade him for Gortat, straight up, after the game.
I hate to dogpile on Tyrus, especially on a night in which the Bulls dropped a collective, colossal stink bomb. But that kid needs to get it together. None of these mistakes are one-game abberations. They happen over and over. But then, repeatedly making the same mistakes is a group habit this season.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too hard on Tyrus, on the whole team. Bitter losses will do that to you. I think I need to sleep on it. Could be that things will seem a little less hopeless in the morning.