Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Game #4 Preview, Bulls-Magic: Rebound

I should probably go to a game and acquire some better file photos (i.e. ones other than this one). 

Chicago Bulls (2-1) vs. Orlando Magic (2-0)

Good times. 

The Opponent 
After the Dwight Howard saga mercifully came to an end, which saw him getting dealt to Los Angeles in a 3-team deal that got Orlando Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic and future picks, the outlook for the 2012-13 season seemed grim to say the least. Where the hopes and dreams of the surely innumerable legions of Magic fans once stood became home to a dusty landscape filled with tumbleweeds and store fronts with signs reading "Be Back NEVER Going to Miami." 

However, the Magic have defied all odds en route to a 2-0 start, beating a good Denver team and Phoenix, both at home. Glen Davis has done his best to make everyone forget that Dwight Howard existed, scoring 29 and 22 points against Denver and Phoenix, respectively. 

Unfortunately for Orlando, they did lose Hedo Turkoglu after he suffered a broken hand in the opener against Denver. Also, Jameer Nelson didn't play Sunday due to a groin injury (FUN) and also didn't practice Monday (per Rotowire); former Purdue guard E'Twaun Moore took his place at the PG spot Sunday. Moore actually performed quite well after a non-descript run in Boston to start his NBA career. Against Phoenix, he put up 15 points on 6/11 shooting (3/3 from beyond the arc) and 6 assists to three turnovers. 

Aside from the whole "two starters already being banged up after two games" thing, things have gone just about as well as the Magic could have possibly hoped for. Davis is filling it up, Moore has performed admirably in Nelson's stead, and J.J. Redick is shooting 75% from 3, which is a good thing for him because he's probably getting traded (that trade value just isn't going to up itself). 

It's hard to get a read on a team like this so early in the season, but I feel confident in saying that they're not as good as they have shown. Davis' top 5 PER of 29.6 is in no way sustainable, but I suppose that doesn't matter in the scope of this game in and of itself. In three games against the Bulls last year, Davis averaged a meager 7 ppg, although with Dwight still around then he wasn't getting starter's minutes. 

The Magic cracked the 100-point mark in each of their first two games, although that is a debatably impressive accomplishment against those teams. However, in light of Howard's departure and the injuries to Turkoglu and Nelson (as well as the ongoing absence of Al Harrington and Gustavo Ayon), the Magic have gotten some surprisingly balanced scoring, allowing new coach Jacque Vaughn to begin his head coaching career with a pair of wins. As Saturday night showed, the Bulls cannot afford to sleep on any team as long as Derrick Rose is out. 

Points of Concern
Many will argue that 3-point defense is "random," and shouldn't necessarily be a cornerstone of an assessment of a team's overall defense. Regardless, the Bulls are about middle of the pack when it comes to 3-point D thus far. The Bulls have allowed some open looks on occasion, usually in transition; luckily for the Bulls, Ryan Anderson had an awful night on Saturday, otherwise the game wouldn't have been close.

As such, the Bulls will need to keep an eye on Redick in transition and coming off of screens in the half court (he's 6/8 from beyond the arc so far). Otherwise, there isn't much about this Magic team on paper that should really scare the Bulls; then again, I thought the same thing leading up to the Hornets game. 

What Needs To Happen 

  • FIND THE SHOOTER. Just like I said in the last preview re: Ryan Anderson, the Bulls cannot afford to gift Redick any open looks. However, it should be noted that Redick is not just a 3-point shooter. He has developed a solid game over the years that extends outside of his ability to knock them 'em from outside. He is shooting 59% on 2-pointers. 
  • Immovable object, irresistible force. The Bulls are 2nd in the league in points allowed per game (87.3), whereas the Magic are 1st in points scored. A general rule of thumb: if the opponent scores over 100, this Bulls team as it is currently constituted probably won't win that game. The Bulls only scored over 100 once during the preseason (exactly 100, a game which I was at) and once in its first three games (the blowout in Cleveland). So, something's got to give here. 
  • Boozer/Hinrich/Hamilton: COME ON PLEASE. Let's add another point to the "Ironclad List of Things That Will Make This Rose-less Bulls Team Lose": if the aforementioned trio combine to shoot 4/26 in a given game, the Bulls are probably not going to win that game. I know, this is shocking, but this is why I am here to tell you these things. In all seriousness, the Bulls can barely even afford to have Boozer go as cold as he did on Saturday, let alone him and Hinrich and Hamilton. This is all a roundabout way of me saying "make shots, please."
Useless Prediction Time 

  • Hinrich continues to struggle from the field, but Boozer and Hamilton enjoy respectable shooting performances.
  • Redick has another great night from the field, but the Bulls' big men give Davis problems all night. Noah and Gibson combine for six blocks. 
  • The Bulls' overall team defense is enough to keep a banged up Orlando team in check; the Magic don't eclipse the 100 point mark for the first time this season. After getting burned re: Saturday night's game, I don't feel as confident about the following as I probably should, but...here it is anyway. 
  • Bulls 91, Magic 87

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