Just a couple of days ago, when the Orlando Magic blew a 20 point lead to a 4-31 Charlotte team, many including myself wondered if maybe that was the final nail in the coffin for Howard’s career in Orlando. But just as that game seemed to signal the Magic are not a serious title contender and should cut their losses and start the rebuilding process, two days later they get the opposite signal when they went to Chicago and beat perhaps the best team in the East behind a brilliant performance from, guess who?
Big #12 had 29 points and 18 rebounds in Orlando’s big win. Perhaps the team’s biggest win of the season will make them pause before moving Howard at the trade deadline this weekend. The Magic again blew a couple of big leads. But blowing a 17 point lead to Chicago is hardly embarrassing. Unlike two nights ago though, the Magic fought back after blowing the lead.
Carlos Boozer led Chicago with 26 points and Derrick Rose added 17 as the Bulls lost for the first time in their last nine games.
“Our guys are satisfied that we came in with the third-best record in the East and the fifth-best record in the league,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “They’re satisfied with that. I don’t think there’s any push to be better or any push to be great. If there is, it doesn’t show up in games,” after the melt down in Charlotte. Evidently his team took his challenge to heart in Chicago.
“We stepped up tonight and everybody played great,” Howard said. “I think it was our defense that got us the lead early in the game. We forced a couple of turnovers and we were able to run and get easy buckets.
“There is some luck to it,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Towards the end, we had two guys laying on the ground and they don’t get a basket. Our offensive rebounding down the stretch was big.”
The Bulls perhaps ran out of gas playing catch up all night. They missed a lot of layups and open threes down the stretch. “We came out kind of sluggish, got ourselves into a hole and couldn’t dig ourselves out,” Rose said.
Kyle Korver ha an uncharacteristically tough night shooting, going 1 for 7 from downtown. “I thought at least three of them were in the bottom of the bucket,” Korver said. “You’ve got one play where everybody falls down and it goes in and out. I need to come through on those.”