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Bulls 89, Magic 81: Bulls bottle up Magic with impressive road win

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Pace Eff eFG FT/FG OREB% TOr
Chicago 89.0 100.0 45.2% 16.9 40.5 19.1
Orlando 91.0 48.6% 18.6 13.2 16.9

OK, I may be later to the party than nearly every other Bulls fan (not new when it comes to bandwagoning), but I no longer absolutely dread potentially facing the Magic in the playoffs.

While I applauded Orlando's risk-taking (and spending) when they made their major trades earlier in the year, that risk was that Arenas and Turkoglu wouldn't be 'rejuvenated' and are instead just pretty bad, and both were especially awful tonight. In the battle of ex-GSW pseudo-PGs, CJ Watson outplayed Arenas with one of his best games of the season, leading a huge run in the 2nd quarter with two big 3-pointers. And Turkoglu was so awful I was almost worried when he injured his elbow in the first half as it would've meant he would be out of the game. Luol Deng picked up where he left off when he dominated Hedo in Chicago, and not only did Turkoglu barely contribute (2 points) he only attempted a single three, not even pretending to be a threat.

And with those potential wild cards instead being sinkholes, the Bulls can really match up well against Orlando. The Bulls strategy to single-cover Dwight Howard (and foul him, a lot) had him still with a nice night (outside of the resulting foul shot attempts, where he went 4-12). But unlike their last meeting, he didn't score 40, and allows the Bulls to aggressively close out on Orlando's 3-point shooters. Orlando was only 6-23 from behind the arc (and a couple of those were garbage buckets) which kept them from ever catching up while decent nights from Brandon Bass and Jameer Nelson helped Howard and his team at least stay in the game.

Maybe whatever energy spent the night before in their epic comeback in Miami was a factor, and they did lose a lot of possessions just being careless with the ball (and how many times would they simply drop a rebound?), but I'm liking what I saw from the Bulls in their previous two meeting.  The Magic still have a lot of weapons and will be a very tough out, but I can now envision 4 of 7 instances where a similar storyline plays out and Orlando's shooters  don't get the job done (with Turkoglu and Arenas blowing). If we want to use the 'where would his team be without him?' logic for MVP, Dwight Howard can have it, and I'm sure us and Rose (who had a pretty quiet 24 points, as if that's possible) will prefer the better overall roster.

Tonight was also significant as it was the start of what should be a wonderful and storied love affair: Hubie Brown and Omer Asik. Great for Omer to have a night like this (and as we've seen, fantastic play for weeks now) on national television with the world's best color commentator gushing over him along the way. And what's not to love if you're an ex-coach, Asik was crucial in a game where Joakim Noah found himself in frequent foul trouble: holding up physically against Howard and helping the Bulls dominate the offensive glass.

With Asik and Noah, the Bulls have a template to beat the Magic. Being able to pull it off on the road is an even better sign. Bring on Miami Sunday.