AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
It’s rare to see an NBA team devastate an opponent defensively. The Boston Celtics were able to do so on January 23, holding the Orlando Magic to a franchise-low 56 points in a game. The Chicago Bulls nearly outdid the Celtics on defense on Monday, limiting the Magic to 59 points — on the road no less. For the Bulls, it was a franchise record for points allowed in a regular season game.
It was a perfect storm of futility for Orlando.
Not only have the Magic been plagued by a turnover bug in recent games, but they were facing off against a team ranked second in Defensive Rating.
That’s not going to help you win ballgames.
As for the explanation behind the Bulls’ defensive devastation, head coach Tom Thibodeau’s gameplan was simple. Let Dwight Howard get his and stop everyone else for Orlando. That strategy didn’t pan out so well for Chicago on March 8, as Dwight was able to dominate offensively as well as get plenty of help from his supporting cast. This time around, though, he was all alone.
While Dwight didn’t have too much trouble scoring against Joakim Noah and Omer Asik, the remainder of his teammates couldn’t generate points no matter how hard they tried. The Bulls did an excellent job of defending Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu in pick-and-rolls, sagging their big men to account for Dwight as the roll man while daring Nelson and Turkoglu to beat them on the perimeter. Nelson and Turkoglu were unable to do so.
Chicago also stayed at home on the Magic’s three-point shooters, contesting almost every jumper that was hoisted up. And when players like Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick got a clean look behind the three-point line, they were unable to make the Bulls pay.
It’s games like these when Orlando’s lack of a consistent shot creator on the perimeter is readily apparent.
Which will likely doom the Magic in the playoffs.
John Lucas III outscored Dwight. That’s not a typo. Granted, It’s not all offense, as the game is played on both ends of the floor. But Lucas III sliced up Orlando’s defense, scoring 20 points in roughly 21 minutes of playing time.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
With Derrick Rose sidelined for a fourth consecutive game with a groin injury, Carlos Boozer stepped up with a double-double (24 points and 13 rebounds) to lead the way for the Bulls.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
Everyone on the Magic roster not named Dwight Howard. His teammates combined to shoot 16-for-54 from the floor (29.6 percent). Credit Chicago’s stifling defense.