Denton: Magic-Bulls Postgame Analysis

By John Denton
January 28, 2011


  • The Bulls used Boozer, Omer Asik and Taj Gibson on Howard throughout the game – with none of it working in the least bit. The Magic big man torched the Bulls throughout with a variety of hook shots, face-up jumpers and alley-oop dunks.

    Howard made seven of 10 shots and four of six free throws for 18 first-half points. He also added four rebounds and two blocked shots in the first 24 minutes for a dominant start to the game.

    And for the game, Howard made 14 shots (only three fewer than his teammates combined) and 12 free throws (three more than his mates). He also added 15 rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots.

    Chicago employed the same strategy that Boston has employed for years against the Magic – try and weather the onslaught from Howard in one-on-one coverage and guard the Magic’s 3-point shooters. It’s no coincidence since the Bulls are coached by Tom Thibodeau, who worked previously as the defensive guru with the Celtics.

    Said Howard: ``I got all of their bigs in foul trouble. I hope they play me like that again.’’


  • The Magic led 51-46 at the half, but they were badly outplayed on both ends of the floor in a particularly unsightly third period. Orlando was doubled-up 34-17 in the third quarter by allowing Chicago to shoot 62 percent (13 of 21) and make three 3-pointers.

    And the Magic didn’t help matters on the other end of the floor, turning the ball over seven times themselves in the third quarter. Van Gundy tried everything to wake his team from its post-halftime doldrums, switching Howard to Boozer and calling three timeouts.

    The third period was a particularly bad one for Magic small forward Hedo Turkoglu. Not only did Chicago’s Luol Deng torch him for 14 points and two 3-pointers, but Turkoglu also missed all five of his shots and turned the ball over once.

    ``(Deng) dominated the second half and we didn’t guard him at all,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I think Turk is capable of far better defense than that. I thought it was Turk’s worst night at both ends of the floor. He didn’t have much and didn’t play well at either end.’’

  • Nelson was lifted from the game with 4:26 left in the first quarter and did not return because of a sore right knee. The injury meant more playing time for key reserve Gilbert Arenas and former Bull, Chris Duhon played meaningful minutes for the first time in weeks.

    Nelson has been bothered by tendinitis in the knee for a couple of weeks, but has been able to play through the pain. Upon coming out of the game, Nelson sat on the bench for a few minutes before heading back to the locker room for treatment on the knee. Nelson never returned to the bench, instead choosing not to push the sore knee. Nelson said there wasn’t a particular play where he was injured, but instead was just bothered by steady pain.

    Nelson missed his only shot and had one assist in 7:34 on the floor. Nelson was the star of Orlando’s rout of Chicago in December, burning the Bulls for 24 points and nine assists.

  • The Magic were outrebounded 54-40 – something that gave the Bulls nine more field goal attempts. Chicago, which had lost the previous three meetings against the Magic including a 107-78 laugher on Dec. 1, shot only 42.5 percent from the floor, but simply made more hustle plays.

    By taking away the arc, Orlando made just five of 21 from 3-point range. It was a big difference from Wednesday when Orlando battered Indiana with 16 3-pointers.

    ``They just played a lot harder. The third quarter is where it was all decided and they played harder and we didn’t,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I didn’t think we had good looks. They were really up on us at the 3-point line and we didn’t have any patience to keep moving the ball and we didn’t put it on the floor and attack. They just flattened us out and we didn’t do much with what we talked about doing at either end.’’


  • In the bizarre statistic of the night – the Magic are now 3-4 this season when Howard scored at least 30 points in a game. Clearly, the Magic are a better team when they are getting scoring from several spots on the floor instead of having to rely so much on their consensus All-NBA center.

    Already without Nelson, the Magic needed production in other spots, but that just didn’t happen. Turkoglu (two of 12, five points), Jason Richardson (two of eight, eight points), Arenas (five of 12, 11 points) and Ryan Anderson (two of six, nine points) could never get into a rhythm shooting the ball.

    The Magic beat Toronto on Jan. 21 when Howard had 31 points in three quarters. He had 32 against Washington on Nov. 27 and another 30 against New Jersey on Nov. 5 – both Magic victories. But Orlando lost on Jan. 17 against Boston (33 points), on Jan. 13 in Oklahoma City (39 points), on Dec. 9 in Portland (39 points) and Friday night in Chicago (40 points) on nights when Howard played especially well offensively.

    Howard wanted to talk more about the lack of defense than his big offensive night.

    ``Whether Jameer was in there or not, the defense was terrible. We can’t win games like this,’’ Howard huffed. ``If we want to be a championship team then everybody has to step up and play no matter who is on the floor. If our guys want to win they have to be able to guard their man. Our defense, guys can’t give up easy baskets like we did. It’s frustrating.’’

  • Arenas struggled in relief of Nelson, missing open shots and being unable to convert when he got into the lane.

    He misfired on all three of his 3-pointers and other than a brief stretch early in the fourth quarter when he made consecutive shots he was ineffective. And he took the blame for the Magic’s offense being impatient and not running enough designed plays.

    ``Defensively we weren’t stopping anybody and offensively we didn’t have it going,’’ said Arenas, who had his right ankle dunked into a bucket of ice and his surgically repaired left knee wrapped in ice. ``There was miscommunication on screen-and-rolls. We came in with a game plan to run screen-and-rolls and at a certain point we just stopped. That’s my fault and I have to relay the message to everyone.’’

  • Howard and former Magic shooting guard Keith Bogans exchanged several playful shoves in the game. And the two even had a testy glare at one another at one point in the second quarter after Bogans tried boxing Howard out and shoved the Magic center out of bounds.

    At one point, Howard and Bogans were even warned by veteran referee Bob Delany to cut out the shoving, not know the two former teammates were playing around. Bogans, who visited the Magic locker room after the game and yucked it up with Nelson and Howard, played two stints with the Magic, starting his career in Orlando in 2003-04 and returning for the 2006-07, 2007-08 and 36 games of the 2008-09 season.


    John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at