Game Preview: Magic at Bulls

The Magic will fly up to the Windy city to take on the Chicago Bulls, who are playing out the string as are the Magic. Orlando defeated Chicago, 115-83 just four nights ago in Orlando. The Bulls lead the all-time series 35-34.

Orlando Magic vs. Chicago Bulls

Sunday, April 13th, 2008

Records: Orlando- 49-30, Southeast division champions; Chicago- 31-48, fourth place in the Central division.

Orlando on the road- 25-14; Chicago at home- 19-20

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 21st in the league in points scored (96.7 ppg.), 30th in field goal percentage (43.19%), 28th in adjusted field goal percentage (47%), 14th in three point shooting (37%), 17th in free throw percentage (75.4%), 9th in field goal percentage allowed (45.12%), 15th in opponents ppg. (100.0), 25th in opponents three point shooting (37%), 10th in steals (7.7/gm.), 19th in turnovers (14.1/gm.), 6th in blocks (5.3/gm.), 7th in rebounding (43.1/gm.), and 13th in assists (21.8/gm.).

Here's how Orlando matches up:
6th scoring (104.3 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.3%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 4th three point shooting (38%), 27th FT% (72.2%), 7th FG% allowed (44.59%), 13th opponents scoring (99.3 ppg.), 13th opponents three point shooting (36%), 27th steals (6.2/gm.), 16th turnovers (13.9/gm.), 25th in blocks (4.1/gm.), 12th rebounding (42.0/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.5/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 when 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, and then again Friday night as they dropped a home game to Minnesota. 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, similar to what they did Wednesday evening.

Final thoughts:
Orlando was embarrassed again against Minnesota, 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.