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Bulls vs. Magic Game Preview and Open Thread

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short-handed Magic at the UC tonight, it’s a tank-off

NBA: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls (19-36) vs. Orlando Magic (18-37)

7 p.m., WGN

Injury Report:

Chicago Bulls point guard Kris Dunn won’t play tonight as he continues to recover from a concussion he sustained on Jan. 17 against the Golden State Warriors. He will practice with the Windy City Bulls today.

Sit down and make yourself comfortable for the Orland Magic’s injury report because it is a long one.

Forwards Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac are out with hip and ankle injuries respectively. Big man Nikola Vucevic is out with a hand injury and will target the All-Star break for a return date. Terrence Ross, who hasn’t played since late November, continues to recover from a sprain in the medial collateral ligament in his right knee and a non-displaced fracture of his right tibial plateau.

Season Series:

On Nov. 3, the Chicago Bulls won their second game of the season with a 105-83 win over the Magic.

Seven Chicago players reached double-digit scoring as the Bulls outscored the Magic by 23 points in the second half to race away for a comfortable victory. This was one of the first David Nwaba revelation games as the forward had 16 points on 7-for-12 from the field.

In the second matchup between the two teams, the Bulls again emerged victorious this time by a score of 112-94. This game marked the Bulls seventh-straight win in their now infamous mid-December winning streak (longest win streak since Dec. 2014) as magic from Nikola Mirotic (15 points and 10 rebounds) and Denzel Valentine (16 points and 10 rebounds) was a key ingredient in the win. The Bulls had 31 assists on 44 made field goals in this game (second highest assist total of the season).

Preview:

Although they have won four of their last six games, the Magic will be without four players tonight who make up over 46 percent of their total points this season. They look to be all-in on the tank, trading away Elfrid Payton who is their fifth leading scoring and leading assist guy for a 2018 second round pick from the Phoenix Suns.

Former Chicago Bull D.J. Augustin now mans the controls at starting point guard for the Magic with Payton gone. Just like at almost every stop in his ten-year NBA career, Augustin has been solid in Orlando averaging 8.9 points and 3.2 assists per game.

Evan Fournier had 21 points on 9-for-17 from the field in the Magic’s first game against the Bulls. He was inactive the second time the two teams played. He’s an athletic wing player with good size who can shoot threes (38.9 percent) and the Bulls need to slow him down if they want to come away with a win tonight.

In the seven games that the Magic have played without Gordon and Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo has averaged 7.3 points per game on 52.5 percent from the field and has pulled down 6.3 rebounds per game.

Even with all their players available, the Magic are 19th this season in offensive efficiency (104.7). It’s difficult to envision a scenario tonight where the Magic score enough points to compensate for their generally awful defense (27th in defensive efficiency this season) with all those players missing the game.

With just two games separating the Bulls from a four-way tie at the bottom of the NBA standings, this seems like a must lose in the tank race especially since the Magic are below the Bulls in the standings. However, it will take a special effort to lose tonight against a painfully short-handed Magic team that wasn’t even good at full strength.