ORLANDO — If anyone had any doubts about the Chicago Bulls, those questions were answered Friday night in Orlando. The Bulls powered back from am early deficit to beat the Magic in Orlando 89-81. The big men were out in force for both teams. Dwight Howard was the main man for Orlando, but his efforts were countered by Omer Asik, Joakim Noah, Kyle Korver and Derrick Rose.
That’s four against one in case your counting.
With the win, Chicago surpassed their win total from the previous season which was 41. Chicago now sits at 42-18 and are geared up for a run at Miami and Boston in the standings.
Rose finished as the top performer for Chicago scoring 24 huge points and had two crucial steals. The Bulls bench also deserves a lot of credit as it continues to prove itself as one of the best benches in the NBA. Chicago’s bench outscored that of Orlando’s 32-13.
That statistic proved to be a major difference in the game’s outcome.
The Bulls got back on track after their embarrassing meltdown against the Hawks on Wednesday and showed that they are a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. They also got some much needed breathing room from the surging Orlando Magic.
A Win Is A Win
It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win. Chicago battled back from falling behind out of the gate to the Magic. In the first quarter Chicago’s scoring was non-existent. It was the Derrick Rose and Luol Deng show as they were the only Bulls that could make any buckets with consistency. The Bulls managed to get some distance between them and the Magic heading into halftime, but as the Magic did the previous night against the Heat, they stormed back with an undying vengeance to pull themselves back within striking distance of Chicago.
Right when Chicago would pull away with a lead, Orlando would slap them back into check with a fierce comeback usually initiated by a vicious Dwight Howard dunk. Howard had over 5 dunks in the game and dominated the Bulls defense in the paint, but more on that later. The Magic were hot off their classic comeback win against the Heat, and like the previous night they made it intensely nerve-racking in the final quarter.
But unlike the previous night, the Magic were held off by Chicago.
Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver all contributed in big ways to lift the Bulls over the hump and hold the lead over Orlando. Omer Asik continued to be a presence off the bench achieving career highs in minutes and rebounds. Despite the intensity of the Magic and how they kept the game close, Chicago did not trail once in the second half.
This game was really the first true match-up between the Bulls and Magic. The first two match-ups inside the United Center in Chicago were split between the two teams. Friday’s game was the first time both teams were at full strength after having played a number of games together. Everyone had their groove on what was brought to the court, on both sides, was playoff caliber basketball.
I Howl, You Howl, We All Howl For Fouls
The subplot to Friday’s night game formulated itself very quickly, and that subplot was the immense amount of fouls committed by both teams. Within minutes of the second half’s start, Joakim Noah found himself in trouble. Soon after that the Bulls found
themselves over the limit in fouls. Omer Asik ended up fouling out of the game with about a minute and a half left in the game.
The Magic also had their fair share of fouls as well.
Dwight Howard picked up his 16th technical foul of the year in the first half and the Magic entered the fourth quarter with 14 fouls.
If the game was determined on how well the Bulls did in guarding Dwight Howard, it would have been a blowout loss. Dwight Howard ate up, chewed up and spit out the Chicago Bulls defense especially in the paint. Howard was guarded by both Joakim Noah and Omer Asik throughout the duration of the night and managed to pretty much dominate both of them. Howard did pick up his 16th technical foul of the season, which will result in a one game suspension by the league, but the fouls were working for Howard in the end. When Noah gained some leverage in guarding Howard, the Superman would find a way to draw a foul. Right out of the gate in the second half Howard and the Magic shoved Noah into foul trouble thus plopping him plumb on the bench.
Insert Omer Asik.
Asik managed better than anyone could have expected, but he still wasn’t strong enough to overpower the massive All-Star. In one particular instance, Howard jumped towards the basket, and Asik matched his jump and it looked like it was going to result in a block.
The Bulls were thankfully able to match the Magic in points from the paint. When they took that edge away from Orlando, the game was finally in hand. Don’t get me wrong, Asik and Noah did an outstanding job, it just took them a while to get into gear.
And also like the Bulls, that’s what makes them deadly dangerous.
Howard’s sheer athleticism lifted him over Asik and instead resulted in Superman embarrassing Asik with an earth shattering dunk.
That was the defense’s night in a nutshell against Howard. He would draw a foul and nail his free throws, or he would pound in a put back dunk and fire up the crowd and his teammates. Orlando is a good all around team, but much like Rose is to Chicago; Dwight Howard serves as an adrenaline shot straight into the vein for the Magic when they need it most.