Denton's Dish: Magic vs. Bulls (1/6/12)

By John Denton
January 6, 2012

ORLANDO – Eight games a season doesn’t make, so it’s impossible to get much of a true read on the Orlando Magic three weeks into this condensed regular season. But this is the reality that the Magic are facing today: They are 0-2 against teams that made deep runs in the playoffs last season and 5-1 versus weaker foes that missed the postseason all together.

Where exactly that puts the Magic now is up for debate. The Magic did stand toe to toe with Chicago for three-plus quarters of Friday’s game, but they succumbed down the stretch as the Bulls used a 17-3 run to pull away for a 97-83 defeat of Orlando.

After giving up far too many offensive rebounds (14), too many second-chance points (18) and kicking the ball away far too often (18 turnovers), Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy summed up his team’s plight rather succinctly.

``Quite frankly, we’re not at that level. Not close,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I’m not saying that crying or complaining, but we have to face reality. We have to do the work to try and reach that level because right now we’re not close to that level of play.’’

At 5-3, the Magic have lost to Oklahoma City and Chicago – finalists in the Western and Eastern Conferences last season – and suffered an ugly defeat the hands of Detroit on a night when Orlando was playing its fourth game in five nights. But Friday night was about Chicago (7-1) exerting its considerable will to pull away from the Magic every time that they got close.

``We know what we did to put ourselves in this position to lose the game,’’ said Magic star center Dwight Howard, who had 28 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots. Orlando did a decent job of getting the ball out of the hands of reigning MVP Derrick Rose (21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds), but Luol Deng (21 points), Carlos Boozer (20 points and 13 rebounds) and Kyle Korver (18 points and five 3-pointers) did most of the damage for the Bulls. They simply had too much firepower for a Magic team that didn’t get similar efforts out of supporting players Ryan Anderson (five points), Jameer Nelson (nine points) and J.J. Redick (one point). And Chicago’s rugged frontline allowed it to get 11 more field goal chances by battering the Magic on the boards.

``The rebounding is just very, very, very disappointing,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We were not up to the challenge on the boards and not up to the challenge on loose balls. It’s just a fact that we’re not at that (Bulls) level. If we want to get to that level – which I think that we do – then we have a lot of work to put in. This wasn’t a bad night. (Losing in) Detroit was a bad night. Tonight, we got our (butts) kicked by a team that played the game a lot harder with a lot more focus.’’

The Magic will leave on Saturday for the West Coast where they will play Sacramento (Sunday), Portland (Wednesday) and Golden State (Thursday). After three days off, the Magic play three games in three days – at New York, at home against Charlotte and at home against San Antonio.

The Bulls are starting a stretch of five games in six nights and seven in nine nights. After a game Saturday in Atlanta, the Bulls must play three games the next three nights.

Here’s a closer look at the key moments from Friday’s game:


  • Once down 62-48 in the third quarter, the Magic started a rally to get back into the game with three straight 3-pointers. And Orlando worked hard to stay close throughout the fourth quarter, getting to within 80-77 on a spin move inside by Howard with 6:11 to play.

    But that’s when the bottom fell out for the Magic. Korver hit a 3-pointer, Rose got the rim and made two free throws and Deng got another free throw by rebounding his own missed shot. By the time the 17-3 run was over, the sold-out Amway Center started emptying.

    ``We’re not that far away, but we’ve got to find a way to do the little things against good teams like the Bulls,’’ said Jason Richardson, who had 17 points and three 3-pointers. ``We can’t let a team like them come in here and get that many offensive rebounds. If we want to get over the hump we have to get things like that corrected.’’

  • Anderson entered the game leading the NBA in 3-pointers made and 3-pointers attempted, but he suffered through a dreadful game on both ends of the floor. He made just two of 10 shots and missed six of seven 3-pointers. Defensively, he struggled inside against Boozer and Taj Gibson and finished with just three rebounds.

    ``It starts with me playing harder and I’ve got to rebound better,’’ Anderson said. ``The offensive end is just one piece. But I just have to do a better job of playing at both ends of the floor.’’

    Anderson made just one of his eight shots in the first two quarters and missed five of his six tries from 3-point range. His back-up, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, didn’t fare much better, missing all five of his shot attempts in the first two quarters. Davis finished with eight points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes.

    Van Gundy has been on Anderson to turn more of his focus to the entire game, and he responded on Wednesday against Washington with a 23-point, 15-rebound effort. But Anderson’s effectiveness faded on Friday when he didn’t make shots.

    ``I thought he rushed a couple of (3-pointers), but the real issue is that he just didn’t get in the battle at all. He didn’t rebound the ball, missed some rotations and didn’t get in the battle. Why I don’t know?’’ Van Gundy said. ``If you’re going to base your game on shooting then when you have nights like this then there’s no way to help us. He needs to base his game on knowing what he’s supposed to do and rebounding the ball.’’


  • Howard had a dominant start to the game, making six of his first eight shots and scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone.

    Despite Howard’s dominance, the Magic led just 27-26 after one period because of some woeful shooting from the rest of the team.

    Orlando led 10-2 early in the game, but it couldn’t pull away because of the uneven shooting. Orlando’s other starters and three reserves made just five of 17 shots in the first quarter.

    And things didn’t get much better in the second period. Orlando finished the first half shooting just 40 percent. Chicago expanded its lead to 53-43 at the half despite Rose not scoring a point in the second quarter. Kyle Korver had nine points in the second period, while Boozer scored eight and drilled a buzzer-beating jumper to end the first half.

  • Rose may be the NBA’s reigning MVP, but he said that’s where the comparisons end between he and Michael Jordan. Rose grew up in Chicago rooting for the Jordan-led Bulls teams that won six titles. He said winning a championship is the ultimate judge of a great player and he can’t even be mentioned in that category until he leads the Bulls to a championship.

    ``We’re two different type of players, plus he’s a Hall of Famer and I’m in my fourth year in the league,’’ Rose said. ``He’s won championships and I haven’t even gotten to the Finals in four years.’’

  • Davis went down hard with 9 minutes to play after getting fouled. Not only did he tackle referee John Goble as he went to the ground, but Davis also hit his hip on a camera and was noticeably limping afterward.

  • Howard and Anderson met in the locker room after the game for more than 15 minutes to discuss what went wrong inside. Anderson said he respects Howard’s opinion and wanted him to know that he’d bounce back on Sunday in Sacramento.

    Said Howard: ``I have a lot of confidence in Ryan. We had a great talk. We all have to sacrifice some things and sacrifice our bodies. Ryan has had great games and games where he hasn’t shot so well. I’ve just tried to tell him that if he’s not scoring he can do other things to help us.’’

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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