[This is the first of our BaB community game previews, which hopefully will both help my laziness as well as get some different voices in on each upcoming game. These will be up the afternoon of the game, and then the official gamethread will be posted right at gametime. Thanks to Calogero for today's preview -ed.]
As Matt alluded to earlier, there isn't a whole lot we can take from the 3 games we've seen so far, although it is nice to not look completely inept out of the gate like the Bulls did last season. Chicago looked pretty good in wins over Memphis and Milwaukee-- although those slow first halves are a tad disconcerting-- and got waxed by the Celtics in a situation where the Bulls legitimately didn't have much of a chance (young team, first road game, new offense, playing the reigning NBA champions and a great defensive team, etc.). On the Chicago side, the storylines tonight are nothing new or exciting; how will the minutes be handled, will Derrick Rose walk on water, will Drew Gooden take a shot from inside 20 feet, and will BaB's prodigal son Tyrus Thomas break his cover-your-eyes bad 2 for 22 shooting slump?
On the bright side tonight, the Magic have been less than impressive so far this season, going 1-2 against a schedule that isn't exactly intimidating. They were thumped 99-85 on opening night at home to Atlanta, and fell on the road 86-84 to Memphis before finally getting an 18 point home win over the lowly Kings. Also, to say that the Bulls hold a considerable talent advantage on the bench redefines the word "understatement." A quick glance at Orlando's roster reveals that after the starters of Nelson/Pietrus/R. Lewis/Hedo/Howard, that leaves a bench of Anthony Johnson, J.J. Redick, Keith Bogans, Marcin Gortat, Brian Cook, Adonal Foyle, and Courtney Lee. Yikes.
However, unlike Chicago, Orlando actually insists upon starting their best players, and with it appearing that the Bulls should be able to make up some ground against Orlando's second unit, the big question remaining is how will they handle the Magic's starters, especially Dwight Howard? Likely nobody in the frontcourt can handle him themselves, and doubling him will create open looks for their myriad of three point shooters. With Chicago holding an advantage in depth, the keys to this game will be the Bulls holding their own against Orlando's first team and getting out and running whenever possible.
The tip is at 6 central on Comcast Sports Chicago (or Sun Sports for any Floridians in the house), and for all other out of market fans, my sources tell me that the League Pass free preview continues tonight (and that this will be the last Bulls game we can catch on it without shelling out 170 bucks). For anything else Magic-related, head on over to Third Quarter Collapse, and may all their threes resemble Larry Hughes' tonight.