The Chicago Bulls were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 97-83 in a game that featured last season’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. That MVP, of course, was Derrick Rose and he was stellar against the Magic, finishing with 21 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, and two steals. Rose wasn’t alone, either, as he got plenty of support from his teammates. Luol Deng finished with 21 points, five assisst, and four rebounds. Carlos Boozer compiled a double-double, putting up 20 points and 13 rebounds. Kyle Korver came off the bench and provided the hot sauce for the Bulls one might say, chipping in with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field (including 5-of-7 from three-point range). On the flipside, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, none other than Dwight Howard, was sharp against Chicago, finishing with a game-high 28 points, 15 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. But unlike Rose, Howard got little help from his supporting cast. Jason Richardson had with 17 points, Hedo Turkoglu had 12 points, and that was about it. No one else for Orlando stepped up. After seven games against a relatively easy slate, aside from a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Magic got to measure up against the Bulls — an elite team and championship contender. Needless to say, Chicago is the real deal while Orlando wishes they were.
The Bulls won this game for several reasons, and it’s precisely why the Magic just aren’t good enough against the best teams in the NBA.
First, Chicago is a deeper team.
In the first quarter, Orlando played well. Howard had 14 points in the period, with most of it coming from 4-out/1-in offensive sets. Howard connected on a plethora of righty hooks and there wasn’t much Joakim Noah could do defensively. Head coach Tom Thibodeau initially went with the strategy of single-covering Howard and allowing him to get his. However, Thibodeau would decide later on in the game to switch up the coverages on defense. In any case, Howard had little trouble scoring and was able to keep pace with Rose, who had 12 points in the first quarter himself. So the starters for the Magic and Bulls effectively played to a draw in the period but then the second quarter came.
That’s where the bench play of Orlando and Chicago differ. In the period, head coach Stan Van Gundy elected to go with a 5-man unit of Chris Duhon, J.J. Redick, Richardson, Ryan Anderson, and Glen Davis. However, this combination had a tough time scoring against a defensive-minded second unit for the Bulls and it proved to be a costly situation. Orlando had a chance to build a lead after leading by a point after the first quarter, but were unable to do so against Chicago. Only Richardson had success on offense.
When the starters for the Magic and Bulls returned, that’s when a second difference between the two teams emerged. Chicago’s starting lineup, as a whole, is far better than Orlando’s. This became evident very quickly as the Bulls went on a 20-4 run that broke the game open in the second quarter. For Chicago, their offensive rebounding became a weapon, as they were able to create second-chance scoring opportunities for themselves. Exacerbating the problem for the Magic was that they kept turning the basketball over. Time and again, Orlando would commit unforced errors that made it harder for them to keep pace. And when the Magic did surge back after being down 48-36 at one point in the period, cutting the deficit down to five points, the Bulls responded with a rally of their own, extending their lead to double-digits heading into halftime thanks to a buzzer-beating shot from Boozer.
From there, Chicago remained in firm control for most of the second half.
After being down by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, Orlando was able to make things interesting in the fourth quarter by cutting the deficit to three points at 80-77 with 6:09 remaining in the game. However, a timely three-pointer by Korver (one of many on the night) following a timeout called by Thibodeau gave Chicago a six-point cushion and they were able to build off of that. The Magic would never get any closer after trailing by three points in the period.
Turnovers and offensive rebounds killed Orlando more than anything else. Which leads into a third difference between the Magic and Bulls. Chicago doesn’t shoot themselves in the foot. The Bulls had 12 turnovers in the game. Chicago’s ability to execute on both ends of the floor was impressive but not surprising, given that they’re a well-coached team but also they’re a team. It’s clear, especially when you watch the Bulls on defense, that there’s a great level of trust on the court from Rose to Boozer to Noah to Deng to whoever. Chicago’s chemistry is palpable and in games like these, it can be a difference maker. The Bulls’ ball movement on offense is a great example of that point and another reason why they won. Orlando on the other hand, unlike Chicago, doesn’t look like a team and there doesn’t seem to be any synergy among the players. This was evident as the Magic continued to commit silly errors offensively in the third quarter as they tried to chip away at their deficit. Errors that could have been avoided had the players for Orlando been in sync with each other. Yet guys like Richardson aren’t. It’s obvious from watching.
Talent gets you far. In some cases, talent helps you win games no matter what but chemistry is important too. And it’s very clear that the Bulls have excellent chemistry while the Magic do not.
It’s not like Orlando is incorporating a bunch of new players either. Davis is the only newcomer that has joined head coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation this season, yet something is missing on the roster. This is the same problem that occurred last season, mind you, before general manager Otis Smith took a stick of dynamite and traded Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat, and Mickael Pietrus. For the Magic, this is not an encouraging sign moving forward.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.