Orlando Magic 96, Chicago Bulls 93: know your role

This was very 2007.

Thomas (16.5 minutes) and Noah (5) barely played. The 3-guard lineup was used a lot, they folded late. And the Magic beat the Bulls, as they did in every meeting between them last season.

To be fair to Vinny, Nocioni was hitting shots, and Aaron Gray is at least able to box Howard out a couple possessions. I can understand why VDN didn't want to use Noah and Thomas too much. But Noah wasn't even given first opportunity over Gray, and that's just wrong. And while Tyrus Thomas made some awful decisions with the ball in the 3rd quarter, he doesn't need to be banished to the bench for the rest of the game for doing so. It's so Skilesian.

The ineffectual starting lineup (and Kirk - as the 4 points in 34 minutes sixth man) put the Bulls in a hole to open both halves, the Bulls were able to come back with Nocioni, Gordon, and Rose. The lineups went from small (Noc at the 4) to smaller (Kirk at the 3), and while it was successful for a stretch (Noc was hitting shots and Turkoglu wasn't) I do not want to see more of that in the future.

(biggest fear: VDN finds the Skiles plan in his desk drawer and benches Thomas for Noc because Thomas had a bad game at the same time Noc had a good one)

But the fact that the Bulls were able to threaten the Magic (they never led) near the end of the game, it not only made it a competitive contest,  it also revealed a bigger problem: the misuse (bordering on non-use) of Derrick Rose to close out the game.

Rose is this team's closer now, and I'm already more comfortable with late deficits than I was in the past because of him. So to see him stand in the corner in late game possessions while Hinrich handles the ball and Gordon takes the shots makes me think the veterans don't realize how they'll help themselves and the team: let Derrick Rose run the show. Gordon especially: after having a solid game, he still thought he was the man, and rushed up a bad shot with the team down two and barely over a shot clock's time remaining.

But while that poor decision likely sealed the game, the entire contest was full of Bulls taking shots that seemed dictated by whose turn it was and not who was open and in position to shoot in rhythm. Hinrich still thinks he's the PG even when Rose is in the game. Drew Gooden hit a few early shots and as a result thought it justified whatever else he threw up. And speaking of throwing up, Luol Deng was completely missing, not making a single field goal and finishing with 1 point in 25 minutes. It's not just a shooting slump, he's taking jumpers early in the shot clock with defenders on him...as if he's trying to get his...like everyone else.

All these guys need to realize they'll play better, and the team will be better, if they let Rose do the work. Ben Gordon should be happy he doesn't have to be on an island in end-of-quarter situations. Deng, Thomas, and Gooden don't need to rush jumpshots if Rose can give them an open one later in the possession. Hinrich...well he just has to get used to a kid taking his job, and become a damned good bench combo guard.

I guess it's a bit much to ask to have the transition happen right away. But hopefully the team sees that the accelerated progress Rose has shown means they need to adapt at a quicker pace than they originally thought. I think some things will correct on their own, like Deng's shooting. And others could be helped by lineup construction, as in getting Gordon more time with Rose. But at the core it's still counting on the players to buy into it.

And if they don't, Vinny needs to tell them. If he is and they're not getting it, Paxson needs to trade them. Though if that was the case, he should've known these players he drafted better, and have traded them already.

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