I’m a long time lurker/commenter but I’m finally going to give this Game Preview a shot. Hope you guys like it.
It’s Friday, we’re in sunny Florida, and ready to play our first back to back game against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Both teams are coming off wins on Wednesday, with Orlando blowing out the win-less Washington Wizards and Chicago beating down the Pistons in the Palace. Chicago is running a 5 game win streak, while Orlando has won 4 of their last five (including a shocking loss to the same Pistons in Detroit). This win will be just as important for both teams and the Magic will undoubtedly be a team to keep an eye down the road.
Here’s what we know about the Orlando Magic from last year: Last year’s matchups between the Bulls and the Magic had us go 3-1. Our one loss was more of a blowout and it was also Carlos Boozer’s debut from his ‘duffle bag’ injury during the preseason. We were outrebounded, and Rose and Noah were the high scorers for the Bulls combining for 31 points. During the second game, Dwight Howard ended the game with 40 points and 15 rebounds, but Derrick Rose fought through stomach ulcers to give the Bulls the win. The other two games saw us win by a combined 11 points even with Dwight Howard sitting the last game out (Rose had 39 points that night).
And here’s what we know so far this season: Both teams are defensive minded with Chicago allowing 87.2 points allowed (2nd) and Orlando allowing 89.0 (3rd). Dwight Howard is still proven to be a monster on the boards and a presence in the paint, but starting power forward Ryan Anderson leads the team in points with 19.7 (Howard is right behind with 19.1). The only thing different this year so far is Jameer Nelson’s unexpected drop off in points. Last year he was averaging 13.1 points but now only 6.7. This was most likely due to the increased minutes of Chris Duhon since Arenas and Jason Williams are now gone, but who knows for sure.
The Bulls on the other hand, have showed great spurts this season from Boozer, Deng, and Brewer/The Bench, while our defense has become increasingly impressive to me (2nd half of the Hawks game and the whole Grizzlies game). Some games has also shown some inconsistent play and all-around sloppy (1st half of the Hawks game and the Warriors game) from the first unit and the Bench Mob.
Here are tonight’s keys to the game for a victory for us.
Rose needs to be aggressive. He swore to it, so let’s see how it goes against a duo of decent point guards. He is stronger, faster, and more athletic than the two and it will difficult to keep up the defensive pressure on him. They are going to need help and this will be a key for us, especially when Rose is getting a lot better at driving and finding the open man on the wings. This is when I like to see Deng, Brewer, and Korver actually get hot to get Rose the help with a saggy defense.
Box out Howard. This seriously shouldn’t be a key to the game but more of a ‘no shit’. The man demands the respect under the rim and should be boxed out on the offensive and defensive glass. I've read the theory that if Howard does get a offensive rebound, then the best bet is to foul him and make him earn his points from the stripe. I’m kind of wishy-washy on this because I don’t like Noah and Boozer in early foul trouble, BUT, Asik and Taj are doing really well in their place and those missed foul shots could be the key to a victory.
We Must Run/Transition Offense. This is one of the best offenses against this team and I really love how the Bulls counter a lot of slower defenses this way. When we cause a turnover or get a rebound, the Magic won’t be able to keep up. Beating Dwight down the court can be one way to get points as we’ve seen in past games. We are averaging 21.1 fast break points per game, 2nd in the NBA, while is 24th in the league only averaging 9.6 points per game. Hopefully, we can continue to exploit this.
Focus On The Shooters. Outside of Dwight’s scoring, Orlando is full of shooters and they are 7th in the league with 3PT shooting percentage. Hedu Turkoglu, J.J. Redick, Jason Richardson, and Jameer Nelson are all known to jack up 3’s. But the one that scares me the most is Ryan Anderson. Being an athletic forward that has the ability to hit threes and spread the floor makes for an interesting matchup if Boozer is going to be guarding him. Honestly, our bigs will have a game on their hands and we’ll see how Thibs will treat them.