Magic 107, Bulls 79

The Magic grabbed and early lead and it was never really a game. The Bulls shot under 25 percent in the first quarter, and the Magic did enough the rest of the way to extend the lead and make this one a sleeper by the fourth quarter. This is exactly the kind of performance the Magic needed to turn in. The Bulls are clearly and inferior team and it was nice to see Orlando take care of business early and get the starters some rest in the fourth quarter. Neither Rafer Alston nor Dwight Howard or Rashard Lewis played more than 25 minutes in the game. With the victory the Magic became the third team in the league to clinch a playoff spot. This season marks the second-fastest the Magic have clinched a playoff berth, second to only the 1994-95 team that eventually reached the NBA Finals. Hedo Turkoglu missed the game due to his bothersome achilles injury, and the Magic went with a three guard starting line-up. Rafer Alston started at the point, with Courtney Lee at shooting guard and Mickael Pietrus at small forward. Marcin Gortat continued his strong play off the bench, scoring eight points in the first quarter. Gortat did an excellent job running the pick and roll with Rafer Alston, catching the ball with deep position and finishing at the rim. As far as Hedo’s injury, it doesn’t seem to be serious at all. I just think the Magic are being extra cautious, while giving Turk some much-needed rest in the process. The odd line-ups continued for the Magic throughout the game, with Anthony Johnson, J.J. Redick and Lee playing at the same time. The bench players that saw some extra minutes took advantage tonight, outscoring the Chicago bench 31-10 in the first half, and 56-37 for the game. In fact, during the first half the Magic bench outscored its starters 31-17. Key figures: 18 points, 8 rebounds: Tony Battie’s stat line on Wednesday night. Battie got a DNP in the loss to the Pistons on Monday night, so it was nice to see him bounce back with a big game. 13 points, 15 rebounds: Dwight Howard’s stat line? No. Those are Marcin Gortat’s numbers. The Polish Prince did all of that damage in just 23 minutes of work. Not bad for the NBA’s best center’s back-up. 31.4 percent: That’s what the Bulls shot from the field — for the entire game. The Magic did an excellent job of forcing to the Bulls into poor shots early in the game and the poor shooting just seemed snowball from there on out. 0-for-9: Rashard Lewis’ shooting on Wednesday night. It turns out the Magic didn’t need Lewis to contribute much, but he need to snap out of this shooting funk ASAP Four Quarters: First: Good: Nice job by Dwight to get Joakim Noah into foul trouble early. Noah picked up his second personal just 58 seconds into the game, forcing Vinny Del Negro go to alter his rotation very early in the game. The Magic also did a wonderful job of defense at the start of the game, holding the Bulls scoreless for the first 3:46 of the game. Bad: While Dwight did an excellent job of getting Noah off the court early, he also picked up his second foul with 6:42 left on the clock in the first quarter. In situations where Dwight is causing problems for the opponent’s big men, he’s got to stop taking so many chances on defense, especially when he’s having his way on the offensive end. Second: Good: J.J. Redick played some very nice minutes in the second quarter and did a nice job distributing the ball while still looking for his own shot. Redick also played some pretty good defense against Kirk Hinrich in the vital “I was a stud in college” match-up. Redick finished the first half with 11 points and three assists. Bad: Rashard Lews couldn’t buy a bucket in the first half, and finished the second quarter 0-of-6 from the field. Third: Good: After a poor first half shooting performance in the first half Alston found his was by getting into the lane. Alston did an excellent job on the pick-and-roll, but instead of distributing the ball inside like he was early in the game, he was keeping the ball and getting to the rim for easy finishes. Bad: Hard to find anything bad about a quarter in which the Magic extended their lead to as much as 32 points. The Magic outscored Chicago 37-17 in the quarter. Fourth: Good: This was a total run out the clock situation. Dwight and Rashard spend the entire quarter on the bench laughing it up while the Magic cruised to victory. Bad: Linton Johnson. The Tulane grad signed with Bulls on Wednesday and joined the team just in time to suit up for the blowout. The only problem? The Bulls didn’t have time to add Johnson’s name to the back of his jersey. So there he was Wednesday night, running around nameless. I guess that’s the life of an NBA journeyman. Extra notes: Are we talking about the same Tyrus Thomas? While watching the game on TV tonight Matt Guokas said that Tyrus Thomas was playing so well this season that people were starting to say he’s better than LaMarcus Aldridge, the player he was traded for on draft night in 2006. Who are these people? Thomas’ parents? While I don’t get out to Vegas to watch the Blazers play in their summer league, I know Aldridge only made one appearance, as a rookie in ’06. I have however attended the Orlando Pro Summer League every year, and every year I see Tyrus Thomas, and every year he looks average at best. At one point in the third quarter Dwight dared Thomas to shoot a wide-open 12-foot jumper, not even raising a hand in defense. Thomas promptly bricked the J. Let’s compare Aldridge and Thomas’ numbers. This season (including Thomas’ “great middle of the season”): Thomas: 10 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 1.8 bpg, 1.0 apg, 44.3 FG % Aldridge: 17.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.8 apg, 48.5 FG % Career: Thomas: 7.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.2 bpg, .9 apg, 44.3 FG % Aldridge: 15.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 1.3 apg, 48.8 FG % ’nuff said.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily