Game Preview # 64 - Bulls at Orlando Magic

[Thanks to wjb1492 for today's game preview -ed.]

I signed up to do this preview before finding out that Lu would miss the game, and possibly Taj as well, due to injury.  Now I kind of wish I hadn't.  With Joakim already out, the Bulls will be considerably understaffed and going against a very good Orlando team.  At least there's college ball?  I'm actually so bummed about the Bulls' situation right now, I felt nothing but bad when I saw my Jayhawks predicted to dominate today just like the Orlando Magic are tonight.

Nothing but NBA after the jump.

It doesn't take an expert to guess that this game in particular could be ugly - but they're predicting it anyway.  Accuscore simulations had Orlando winning 89.1% of the time (64.9% by 10+ points), and by an average score of 100.1 to 85.3.  (Here's a link, but it's insider....)  Orlando is 8th in the league in offensive rating, 5th in defensive, and have won 9 of 11 since the All-Star break.  The Bulls have gone 6 and 6 over that same stretch, but this includes losing their previous 5 games.  And everyone's favorite expert, John Hollinger, has this to add about the Bulls:

Chicago has lost five straight, and its defense is in shambles without Joakim Noah; Tuesday night was the eighth straight game in which the opponent cleared the century mark. In that time, the Bulls have dropped from sixth to 11th in defensive efficiency, which is bad news since they need their D to win. Chicago is only 27th at the offensive end, and that number might plummet further if Luol Deng misses any time with the right calf strain he suffered Tuesday.

Thanks for the optimism, John.  (Link, also insider.)  On the other hand, why should a non-fan be optimistic when the fans aren't?  And just to wrap the whole thing up in a big bow, the game is on TNT (7 pm central) - national humiliation, with commentary by Charles Barkley.

So what to look for tonight?

1. JJ getting more time, as he is expected to start in Lu's absence.  Or, alternatively, JJ playing the first 5 minutes before Vinny breaks out the vaunted 4 guard lineup.  Dwight Howard won't know what hit him.  (Literally, unless he looks down.)

2. Derrick's revenge for the hard foul that knocked him out of the game last time the teams met.  (OK, no revenge is likely - but do you need a reason to watch Derrick?)

3. The Bulls are actually 5 and 3 in Thursday games, so maybe there's a little magic on our side, too?  (Don't look too closely at those Thursday night opponents, though....)

4. Orlando makes more 3s than any other team in the league, so hongydraw can have a field-day cutting-and-pasting comments from Tuesday's game thread.  ;-)  In fact, the gamethread should be a total blast....

Check out the action at Orlando Pinstriped Post.  And may the basketball gods have mercy on us.  Go Bulls!

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