[Thanks to BigSmooveDucky for today's game preview -yfbb]
Well, the quest for 50 wins has come to an end thanks to a stinker at The Garden last night that saw the Bulls' 7-game win streak come to a screeching halt with a 89-100 loss to the Knicks...ugh. But with the great brand of basketball the Bulls have been playing lately they were due an ugly loss to an ugly team. Hopefully, they won't do it twice in a row as they host the not so magical Orlando Magic tonight.
The most significant impact this game will have is lottery position for the Magic and playoff seeding for the Bulls, although it's pretty much been decided that they will be the 4th seed and will see Brooklyn in the first round. Other than those two situations, there isn't much else for either team to really fight for. However, I expect Thibs' squad to be a little peeved at the way they played last night and to start the game very aggressive on the defensive end, getting physical and into the chest of anyone wearing a blue jersey. I also expect the Bulls to look more efficient in moving the ball around on offense and getting quality looks--yesterday there were too many times where the ball got stuck in one spot and drained precious seconds off of the shot clock. The Bulls cannot and will not win games when they don't have constant motion.
On the other side, Orlando has not looked or played great all season but they have great young talent and their future looks pretty promising. Aaron Afflalo is having what is probably the best season of his career so far averaging 18.5 pointer per game and shooting 42.3% from three-point range, Victor Oladipo has had a very solid rookie campaign with 14 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists per game and I believe he can only get better. Yet, I think the biggest x-factor for this Magic franchise will be the development of Tobias Harris. He seems to have finally found a home with the Magic and has had a second very productive season since parting ways with the Bucks. Despite his numerous short comings, Harris has shown the potential (in my opinoin) to be a franchise changer. Maybe not a player you build around, but I believe he is definitely a player who can and will help a team trying to go deep into the playoffs.
The Bulls should win this one without too many hitches. Like always, it comes down to execution: when the Bulls play their game and play focused they win more often than not and also look good doing it. They must establish a rhythm early and play within themselves. That means not dribbling 15 seconds off the shot clock (here's looking at you, Kirk), taking open shots when you get to the rim (Kirk), not holding on to the ball looking for a pass (Jo), and not forcing bad shots (Kirk, DJ, Jo, Taj, Carlos, Jimmy, Tony, Mike). As long as they stay even and stay focused, the Bulls should be able to win their last regular season game at the United Center pretty handily.
Tip-Off is at 7:00pm CT, CSN-Chicago and ESPN 1000AM / WRTO 1200AM
(SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: Check out the podcast for my radio show "The HoopHeads" at soundcloud.com/HoopHeadsKCOU and follow us on twitter @HoopHeadsKCOU)