The Orlando Magic played one of their best games of the regular season and were able to defeat the Chicago Bulls by the score of 107-78, winning their season-high fifth consecutive game of the year. For the Magic, they blew the game wide-open by halftime after putting up a 33-15 margin in the second quarter. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. The Magic’s starting backcourt was excellent, as Jameer Nelson finished with 24 points, nine assists, and two steals while outplaying Derrick Rose head-to-head, while Vince Carter had 22 points and six rebounds. Dwight Howard had another pedestrian game for his standards, chipping in with 13 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks. Rashard Lewis had 13 points before leaving the game early with a left knee injury (it’s not considered serious). And once again, Brandon Bass contributed off the bench with 17 points.
This was a weird game.
J.J. Redick had to sit out with a stomach flu and unfortunately for Orlando, a virus that has been going around the team had Mickael Pietrus vomiting in the second quarter. With Redick and Pietrus absent, the Magic were short-handed on wing players which resulted in extended minutes for Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon, and Carter to shore up part of the rotation.
Likewise, even though Orlando was playing on a back-to-back, they played with much better energy and effort. The Bulls, even though they had the benefit of having Carlos Boozer make his first appearance of the season, didn’t play with a lot of passion and it resulted in a lopsided loss for them. It’s doubtful that the same thing happens when these two teams meet again in late January.
For the Magic, this was a dominant performance in the paint.
Joakim Noah, for example, is ranked third in rebounds per game and eight in total rebound percentage, yet he didn’t register a single rebound in roughly 25 minutes of playing time. As a collective unit, the Chicago was out-rebounded 44-21 by Orlando. Those are telling numbers.
That’s one of the reasons why the Magic were able to win with relative ease.
Another reason is that Orlando executed to near perfection offensively. Howard wasn’t much of a factor on the low block, but the perimeter attack for the Magic was devastating and were led by the efforts of Nelson and Carter.
In the first half, Carter was fantastic. Carter scored 20 of his 22 points in the first two quarters and got his buckets in a variety of ways. The second quarter was probably where Carter was at his best. Playing with the reserves, head coach Stan Van Gundy made an excellent decision of funneling the Magic’s offense to Carter in the low post since he was being defended by the smaller Ronnie Brewer. As a result, the first three minutes for Carter in the period went like so: a running jumper in the 2/5 pick and roll with Marcin Gortat, a fantastic kick-out pass from the low post to Pietrus in the corner for a three-pointer, and a fadeaway jumper over the outstretched hands of Brewer.
Another good sign, that occurred throughout the game, was Carter’s willingness to attack the basket. Perhaps this was a result of the lack of a shot-blocking presence for the Bulls but whatever the case may be, Carter got a lot of his points in the paint and that’s always an encouraging sign.
As for Nelson, he was a magician in the pick and roll.
Whether he was looking for his own shot or feeding his teammates for open looks on the perimeter, Nelson did whatever he wanted against Chicago’s defense. The most impressive thing to take away from Nelson’s performance was his efficiency on the offensive side of the ball. 24 points on 11 shots?
That’s the type of efficient display on offense, if it continues, that will land Nelson on the All-Star team in Los Angeles.
And last but not least, Bass is emerging as Orlando’s sixth man.
Bass continues to combine his forays at the rim with his near-automatic mid-range jumper with great results. 17 points on eight shots? Fantastic. And Bass’ defense continues to impress, as he had a highlight-reel block on Boozer’s fadeaway jumpshot attempt late in the second quarter.
Can’t forget about Howard’s block in the first quarter against Luol Deng, either.
Wow. In short, Deng dribbled down the court on a fastbreak and proceeded to go up for a layup. Unfortunately for Deng, Howard was streaking down the court and perfectly timed his jump to annihilate the basketball out-of-bounds.
For a second, Howard was in an indoor volleyball player.
It was that kind of night for the Magic.