GameNight: 8 p.m., 3/11/10, Orlando vs. Chicago Bulls
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ORLANDO, Fla.(AP) Vince Carter had 23 points to help the Orlando Magic pull away early and cruise past the injured Chicago Bulls, 111-82 on Thursday night for a season-high seventh straight win.
Matt Barnes added 14 points, and reserve Brandon Bass scored 13 in another blowout victory against a struggling team for the Magic.
And one that was dealt a big blow.
All-Star point guard Derrick Rose sprained his left wrist in a midair collision with Dwight Howard in the first quarter and didn't return for the Bulls, the latest setback in a season that's quickly going sour. Taj Gibson and Hakim Warrick had 12 points apiece, not nearly enough to prevent Chicago's sixth consecutive loss.
The Magic have left their mark on the Bulls this season - a big bruise the last two meetings for Rose.
The speedy guard drove the lane hard for a layup in the final minute of the first quarter when he was knocked to the floor trying to finish over Howard, an almost identical play to the one that sidelined the Bulls star when the teams last met Feb 10. Rose clutched his lower back before slowly rising to his feet, making one of the free throws.
He stayed in the game before being taken to the locker room for an examination after the quarter. How long he could be sidelined was not immediately announced.
The Magic had their way without him.
Howard had an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Jason Williams. Marcin Gortat had a one-handed slam on an alley-oop from Williams. Four different Magic players made at least one 3-pointer.
And that was just in the opening half, with Orlando going ahead 65-33.
Things got so out hand that fans chanted at full throat, ``We want Foyle,'' referring to 35-year-old third-string center Adonal Foyle, the only Orlando player who hasn't played this season. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was even booed after he didn't give in during a late timeout. Van Gundy could only chuckle.
After all, this was a laugher.
The Bulls were undermanned and outhustled by a Magic team playing its best basketball of the season. At a time when teams are trying to make a push toward the postseason, the Bulls couldn't be playing worse.
Or be missing so many key pieces.
They're already without their leading rebounder and inside defender, Joakim Noah, sidelined with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. And the Bulls' second-leading scorer, Luol Deng, is out with a strained right calf.
The injuries have led to poor play and pushed Chicago out of the Eastern Conference's final playoff spot. The Bulls are 1 1/2 games behind Miami, Charlotte and Toronto for the eighth seed.
The Magic moved 4 1/2 games behind first-place Cleveland - and 4 1/2 ahead of Boston - in the East. They have taken advantage of talent-deprived and injury-riddling teams the past two weeks.
Mixed in with a big win against the Lakers, the Magic have beaten the Clippers, Golden State, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Miami during their streak.
NOTES: Magic backup SF Mickael Pietrus missed the game with a strained neck. He is day to day. ... Yankees ace CC Sabathia was sitting in the front row on the baseline for the third straight Magic home game.
(STATS) -- In their last two games, the surging Orlando Magic posted wins against one of the league's best teams and one of the worst.
Their next opponent is playing more like the latter.
The Magic look to win their season-high seventh straight game Thursday night when they host the slumping Chicago Bulls.
Orlando (45-20) has matched its longest win streak of the season, giving itself a small cushion over Boston for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. It still trails first-place Cleveland by five games.
The Magic beat the Lakers on Sunday in an NBA finals rematch and followed that victory with a 113-87 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
Orlando led by 26 points at the half and cruised the rest of the way. Dwight Howard, who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, did most of his damage in the first half, going into the break with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
"I liked the way we approached the game coming off a big win the other night," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "There was no letdown, especially in the second half."
The Magic have a good chance at extending their winning streak against a Chicago team that has lost five in a row. Orlando hasn't won seven straight since Jan. 6-17, 2009.
Improved production from point guard Jameer Nelson has provided a boost for the Magic, winners of five straight at home. Nelson is averaging 12.6 points this season, but 16.4 in the last 10 games. He had 17 points and eight assists Tuesday, shooting 3 of 5 from 3-point range.
Nelson and the Magic will try to take advantage of the Bulls' defensive struggles. Chicago equaled its longest losing streak of the season Tuesday with its fifth straight defeat, 132-108 to Utah. It was the most points the team has allowed this season.
The Bulls are giving up 115.0 points per game during the skid and their last two opponents have averaged 127.0 points and shot 55.3 percent. All of those losses came without defensive presence Joakim Noah, who is out with plantar fasciitis.
Howard will look again to dominate inside with Noah sidelined. He had 18 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes of a 107-87 win Feb. 10 with Noah out. In the previous matchup with Noah in the lineup, Howard was held to nine points and 12 rebounds in a 101-93 loss Jan. 2.
Thursday continues a difficult stretch for Chicago, which in a tight battle with five teams for the final four playoff spots in the East. The Bulls play their next four on the road and their next five opponents are all playoff contenders.
"It's the NBA, you can always change things around," said Derrick Rose, who had 25 points and 13 assists Wednesday. "Now we go on the road for two big games. We need them."
It won't help, however, if the Bulls don't have Luol Deng, who sat out the fourth quarter with a strained right calf. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI before Thursday's game.
Deng is second on Chicago, averaging 18.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
The Bulls, who haven't lost six straight since Nov. 14-24, 2006, have lost four in a row in Orlando by an average of 19.3 points.
Mar. 11 vs. Chicago: Orlando is 39-37 all-time vs. Chicago (22-14 at home, 17-23 on the road) during the regular season, including 1-1 this season (see recaps below)…Orlando went 3-1 last season against the Bulls…Orlando is 4-6 (2-3 at home, 2-3 at Chicago, 1995 Conference Semifinals, 1996 Conference Finals) during the playoffs…The Magic have won 11 of the last 15 regular season meetings overall…Orlando has won five of the last eight matchups with the Bulls at home, and won six of the last eight outings at Chicago …Magic Senior VP Pat Williams served as Bulls GM from 1969-73…For last season’s stats and Magic career numbers vs. Chicago, see p. 242 of the media guide…Jan. 2 @ Chicago – Bulls 101, Magic 93: Matt Barnes scored a season-high 23 points, but it wasn’t enough as Chicago extended their winning streak to four with a 101-93 win over the visiting Magic. The Bulls led for the final 25 minutes of the game and had as large as a 15-point lead with 6:11 left in the game, but a JJ Redick 3-pointer with 27.2 seconds on the clock pulled the Magic within three, 96-93. That was as close as they would get, however, as Orlando missed its final three attempts and Chicago converted 5-of-6 free throws in the closing moments to seal the win. Derrick Rose led Chicago with 30 points, 20 of which came in the second half…Feb. 10 @ Chicago – Magic 107, Bulls 87: Seven Magic players scored in double figures, led by Dwight Howard with 18 points and 14 rebounds, as Orlando routed Chicago, 107-87, at United Center. Vince Carter scored 15 points, while Matt Barnes added 14 points. Luol Deng led the Bulls and all scorers with 23 points. Chicago’s All-Star point guard Derrick Rose was forced to leave the game after just a few minutes after suffering a bruised right hip. Orlando was 12-of-32 from three-point range and held Chicago to just 36.8 percent shooting from the floor. The Magic jumped out of the gates quickly, leading 41-17 after the first quarter and never looked back. Orlando led by as many as 29 points.
BEST ALL-TIME SCORING PERFORMANCE VS. BULLS: 52 pts., Tracy McGrady (@ Orlando, 2-21-03)
BEST ALL-TIME SCORING PERFORMANCE VS. MAGIC: 64 pts., Michael Jordan (@ Chicago, 1-16-93)