By Dan Savage
March 8, 2012
The Orlando Magic wanted to make a statement against the top team in the Eastern Conference.
And they made one in a commanding fashion on Thursday.
Magic All-Star center Dwight Howard thrashed the Bulls with 29 points and 18 rebounds to help Orlando earn a hard-fought 99-94 road victory over Chicago and prove to the rest of the league that this squad is more than capable of hanging with the elite squads in the NBA.
"We got a huge win here," Ryan Anderson said. "This is a game we really wanted to show how good of a team we are."
The triumph displayed all the signs that this Magic team can be a championship contender.
There was the explosive first quarter. The Magic’s offense erupted for 37 first-quarter points, the most the tight-knit defensive Bulls have allowed in a period all season.
There was the ability to handle adversity. The Magic did not flinch after the Bulls rallied back from an 18-point deficit and closed the first half on a 15-3 run, which was capped by a Derrick Rose buzzer-beating 3-pointer heading into halftime.
"Chicago made a run and instead of us folding and giving up, we played together, stayed together and got a good win," Howard said.
There was the killer instinct. Orlando finished the contest on a 10-3 run, which featured a fantastic flush from Superman, a huge three from Anderson and critical free throws courtesy of J.J. Redick.
"We gave up the lead and then fought hard to get it back," Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "This was a great win for us."
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Most importantly, there was the shining of the Magic’s superstar center. Howard outperformed Rose, the NBA’s reigning MVP, in his own building by notching game-highs in points, rebounds and blocks (3).
“We had to commit our whole team to him,” said Bulls Head Coach Tom Thibodeau.
And finally, there was the balanced attack. Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson fired off 18 points, before leaving late in the fourth quarter with a sprained left ankle. Anderson notched 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson combined for 22 points and 13 assists.
"(This win) shows that when we come out and come ready to play the entire game, we're a tough team to beat,” Anderson explained.
And that's the exact statement the Magic were looking to make against the Bulls.
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