Game Preview: Magic vs Bulls

The Magic return home to take on the Chicago Bulls, who are playing out the string as are the Magic. The Bulls lead the all-time series 35-33.

Chicago Bulls vs. Orlando Magic

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Orlando- 48-29, Southeast division champions; Chicago- 31-46, fourth place in the Central division. Chicago on the road- 13-26; Orlando at home- 23-15

Chicago is led by guard Ben Gordon, who averages 19 ppg. and usually comes off the bench. The Bulls backcourt consists of Kirk Hinrich and Larry Hughes. Hinrich leads the team with 6.1 assists while scoring 12 ppg. Hughes came over in a trade from Cleveland and averages 12.7 ppg., but scored 40 against the Magic earlier this season while playing with the Cavs. Andres Nocioni and Drew Gooden make up the frontcourt and both have solid mid-range jumpers. Gooden is a solid rebounder. Rookie Joakim Noah is currently starting at center. Noah is an effort player who must be accounted for on the glass.

Off the bench, the Bulls bring Chris Duhon and Luol Deng, along with Tyrus Thomas and Aaron Gray.

Statistically speaking:
The Bulls are 18th in the league in points scored (96.9 ppg.), 30th in field goal percentage (43.17%), 29th in adjusted field goal percentage (47%), 14th in three point shooting (36%), 17th in free throw percentage (75.36%), 9th in field goal percentage allowed (45.03%), 15th in opponents ppg. (99.9), 25th in opponents three point shooting (37%), 11th in steals (7.7/gm.), 17th in turnovers (13.9/gm.), 6th in blocks (5.2/gm.), 8th in rebounding (43.1/gm.), and 12th in assists (21.9/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up:
6th scoring (104.2 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.2%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 4th three point shooting (38%), 25th FT% (72.52%), 7th FG% allowed (44.64%), 13th opponents scoring (99.5 ppg.), 14th opponents three point shooting (36%), 27th steals (6.2/gm.), 16th turnovers (13.9/gm.), 26th in blocks (4.1/gm.), 14th rebounding (41.9/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.4/gm.).

What do the stats say?
Chicago struggles shooting from the floor, but they've played better defense of late. Their bench packs a punch with Gordon and Deng, but their starters aren't great shooters.

Best matchup for Chicago:
Larry Hughes vs. Maurice Evans- Hughes isn't a great scorer, but he acts like one when he plays Orlando. Hughes torched the Magic for 40 points the last time he faced them while playing for Cleveland.

Best matchup for Orlando:
Dwight Howard vs. Joakim Noah- Howard is far too strong for Noah to handle, and the Orlando big man should have a fairly easy time against a group of Bulls defenders who are undersized. Howard is averaging 16 ppg., and 16.5 rpg. against Chicago this year.

Keys to a Magic victory:
1. Show up. The Magic failed to show up Sunday night as they lost to the dismal Knicks, 100-90. Although these games are meaningless, Orlando doesn't want to get into a routine of lackluster play and then have to flip the switch on for the playoffs.

2. Hit the glass. Orlando has been dominated on the glass lately, and although this game isn't very important to either team, the Magic must get their rebounding problems fixed prior to the start of the playoffs.

3. Get into a track meet. Chicago has had problems with teams that have an up-tempo, and if the Magic can run the ball, they should find success.

Final thoughts:
Orlando was simply embarrassed Sunday night in New York, and they need to get some positive momentum heading into the playoffs. Although this game isn't vitally important, another poor showing could affect the team's confidence.