The Chicago Bulls (1-5) stop in Central Florida this evening to take on the Orlando Magic (6-2) in the first of four games schedule between the two this season. So far Orlando looks to have undergone a total transformation from last season.
Last year the Magic ranked 27th in the league in scoring at (101.1), but heading into tonight they sit 2nd in lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 114.9 points per game. Last season they were was also parked near the bottom of the pack in shooting (28th /.440), as well as from the 3-point arc (29th /.328). But today it’s completely different story as they enter tonight’s game 2nd in shooting (.489) and first (.442) from downtown.
The Magic’s starting frontcourt of forwards Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon have led the charge. Fournier is averaging 22.0 points in 33.6 minutes and has connected on 54.7 percent of his shots overall and 55.8 from the arc, while Gordon is close behind, putting up 20.7 points in 31.0 minutes while shooting 56.1 percent overall and an equally ridiculous 57.7 from distance.
Orlando is coming off an exciting 101-99 road victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, while the Bulls are looking to bounce back after falling in Miami, 97-91, Wednesday evening.
A major key for Chicago every game is to get off to a fast start, as they simply don’t have the firepower — at least for the time being — to consistently play catch-up if they fall behind by a lot early on. Against the Heat the other night the Bulls found themselves down 20-6 eight minutes into the game. Although they battled back, and in time took the lead for stretches, the amount of energy spent making the score respectable going into the 4th quarter ultimately proved costly as they looked out of gas during in the final few minutes.
Defensively, Chicago needs to always show up with an aggressive, nasty mindset. The Bulls cannot allow any opponent they face easy scoring opportunities. Every attempted shot and pass must be met with a challenge.
Another major key for the Bulls every game is their willingness to collectively crash and take command of the boards. Chicago comes in ranking 3rd in the league in overall rebounding at 48.2 per game, whereas Orlando is 18th (43.8). Since the Bulls are at the bottom of the league in overall shooting (.389) and 28th from downtown (.311), a willingness and commitment to go hard after every rebound and loose ball is obviously vital.
Offensively, Chicago has to commit to speedily pushing the ball up the floor and make it hop from player-to-player, and side-to-side. Frankly it’s a disservice if the Bulls slow the pace by walking the ball up the floor and fall into a trap of playing an isolation, one-on-one game. The ball cannot get stuck in anyone’s hands. It needs to be shared freely with every player on the floor constantly moving about, cutting towards and away from the basket with purpose. Although ideally the Bulls would like to launch at least 30 3s every game, they can’t simply live outside. As a group, Chicago also needs to aggressively attack the rim in order to force the opponent’s defense to scramble and expend extra energy.