It happened again. The Orlando Magic once again failed to back Dwight Howard up with a consistent second scoring option and fell to the Chicago Bulls 99-90. Howard was masterful with a season high 40 points coupled with 15 rebounds. He did everything in his power to keep the team within shouting distance making 14-20 from the floor and a very respectable 12-16 from the free throw line. He was hitting that bank shot we haven’t seen since early in the season, and befuddled the Chicago bigs with Astaire like foot work in the post. The rest of the team? Well the rest of the team shot an absolutely woeful 18-58 (31%) from the floor and Gilbert Arenas was the only other Magic player to reach double digits (11 points) and that didn’t come till the 1:28 mark of the 4th quarter.
Jameer Nelson left in the first quarter with a knee injury and did not return leaving the ball handling duties to Arenas and Hedo Turkgolu. Neither were effective. Arenas, who himself is reportedly battling knee tendinitis, looked lost controlling the offense. He had a terrible turnover trying to float the ball cross court to Turkgolu with 38.9 seconds left and the Magic down 5. Turkgolu while at the helm could do little more than throw the ball to Howard which was the only recourse for the Magic tonight. The lack of offense was one thing but the defense Turkgolu displayed in the 2nd half was deplorable. Luol Deng torched Turkgolu for 24 of his 26 on 9-14 in the 2nd half. Deng hit two 3′s in the 3rd quarter off failed double team attempts on Carlos Boozer in the post. Those two 3′s got Deng ignited and turned Turkgolu’s evening into a nightmare. Coach Van Gundy said “(Deng) dominated the second half and we didn’t guard him at all, I think Turk is capable of far better defense than that. I thought it was Turk’s worst night at both ends of the floor. He didn’t have much and didn’t play well at either end.’’
Chicago’s All-Star Derrick Rose only shot 6-21 but still managed 22pts, 12ast, and 6rebs while fighting 2 ulcers in his stomach. Despite his poor taste in healthy foods he was able to maneuver past the Orlando guards with ease and create offense for his team. Dwight Howard said “We didn’t play any defense. They played offense and we did nothing. Offensively, we didn’t move the ball, had a lot of one-pass-and-shoot possessions and you just can’t win like that…We can’t be a championship-contending team playing defense like we did tonight.’’
The Bulls chased the Magic off the 3pt line defensively leaving the offensive impatient without its leader Nelson. Orlando was outscored 34-17 in the 3rd quarter after leading the game 51-46 at the half. “They just played a lot harder. The third quarter is where it was all decided and they played harder and we didn’t,’’ Van Gundy said. “I didn’t think we had good looks. They were really up on us at the 3-point line and we didn’t have any patience to keep moving the ball and we didn’t put it on the floor and attack. They just flattened us out and we didn’t do much with what we talked about doing at either end.’’
Nelson’s injury is not considered to be serious but he is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Something has got to give when it comes to finding consistent defense and a consistent offensive attack especially if Nelson is going to miss any time. Otherwise this team will be at the whims of the truly elite Eastern Conference teams the rest of the season and come playoff time.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com