Bulls (31-32) vs. Magic (45-20)
Time/TV: 8 p.m./TNT
Key Matchup: Derrick Rose (20.6 PPG, 5.8 APG; 26.0 PPG, 6.2 APG last five games) vs. Jameer Nelson (12.6 PPG, 5.4 APG; 16.4 PPG, 7.4 APG last five games)
Season Series: Lost 101-93 in Chicago on Jan. 2; Won 107-87 in Chicago on Feb. 10; Tonight in Orlando.
-George Diaz of The Orlando Sentinel is ready to pencil in Orlando and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals after Boston dropped a big home loss to Memphis.
-Matt Barnes’ war of words with Lamar Odom continued with a provocative tweet early Wednesday morning. Barnes thinks the fact we are still talking about this is a little ridiculous.
-Brandon Bass will remain the primary backup to Rashard Lewis, at least until the six-game win streak is snapped, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.
-George Diaz of The Orlando Sentinel is one of the many writers and columnists who have criticized Dwight Howard for his on-court demeanor. But Diaz seems settled with the team’s current makeup that Howard is right where he needs to be.
-Chicago has had a rough go of it lately as the team has dropped five straight and fallen out of the Eastern Conference Playoff hunt. But it has gotten worse as Luol Deng is going to be out for “a while” and Taj Gibson is questionable tonight with plantar fascitis, reports John Jackson of the Chicago Sun-Times.
-Bulls fans are looking forward to free agency this season and dreading what the end of this season might bring in K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune’s mail bag. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com also answered similar questions in his mailbag.
-Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald reports rookie James Johnson is likely to get the start in Luol Deng’s spot as things continue to get worse for the struggling Bulls.
-Derrick Rose admitted to Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald that he opened himself up too much and was to blame for the injury that knocked him out of the game the last time Orlando met Chicago. Rose drove to the basket early in the game and was hit in mid-air by Dwight Howard. Rose got up to shoot the free throw, but the left the game after that and missed the All Star skills competition that weekend. Rose said he will lead with his shoulder more to brace for the contact and get to the basket.
-Vinny Del Negro admits that his team currently does not have the man power to compete at the level Chicago needs to keep up in the playoff race, reports K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribuen. This comes on the heels of news that Luol Deng will miss extended time with a strained calf and injuries to Taj Gibson and Brad Miller.
-Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago reports Brad Miller, Luol Deng and Taj Gibson sat out practice Wednesday before Chicago embarked on a two-game Florida swing. Deng has a strained calf but is expected to travel to the Sunshine State.
-Orlando looks for its season-high seventh straight win tonight against the injury-riddle Bulls. Andrew Melnick of Howard the Dunk has a preview.
-Stan Van Gundy tells Eddie Rivera of Orlando Pinstriped Post reveals some of the things he looks for defensively on the box score and his view of the push and pull relationship between NBA teams and the advanced statistics talked about at the Sloan Sports Conference.
-Andrew Seligman of the Associated Press writes the Bulls may not be able to rely on the strong March streak that pushed them to a near first round upset of the Celtics. The schedule is too tough and injuries are starting to mount.
-Henry Abbott of TrueHoop examines some new numbers that shows Kobe Bryant may not be the best player in crunch time. Not surprisingly to Magic fans, Rashard Lewis hits a high percentage of his late-game shots.
-Brad Miller meets his biggest fan (courtesy of Ball Don’t Lie).
-Bret Pollakoff of FanHouse says watch out for the Bucks in FanHouse’s lastest power rankings. Orlando is second and Chicago dropped from 14 to 20.
-Trey Kirby of Ball Don’t Lie breaks down JJ Redick and his boyish good looks.
-Sam Smith of Bulls.com reports Luol Deng’s injury is not serious, but Chicago’s playoff situation is. He breaks down where the Bulls stand in the fight for the East’s last playoff spots.
-Alex Varone of Bleacher/Report writes that Orlando is not just winning with talent but also with toughness.
-Sean Deveney of The Baseline believes Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro is one of the coaches on the hot seat and fighting for his job.
-ESPN Insider John Hollinger no longer sees Chicago as a favorite to make the postseason. The Bulls are slumping right now and their schedule (and the schedule of their opponents) is not quite favorable.
-Zachariah Blott of Empty the Bench believes Dwight Howard is the most difficult player to gameplan in the NBA because of the effect he has on both ends of the floor.
-The war of words with the Lakers continued, Matt Barnes fired back at Lamar Odom with some choice words on Twitter following the Lakers’ win over the Raptors on Tuesday.
-Matt Barnes may have started an interesting trend. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports Lamar Odom became a little peeved that Toronto players were strutting around trying to provoke the Lakers in Tuesday’s game.
-Matt Barnes responded to being called a “Kobe Killer” on “Into the Night” radio show with Tony Bruno on Tuesday. SportsRadioInterviews.com transcribed the interview.
-Randy Zellea of SLAM Magazine asks JJ Redick what it will take for Orlando to get back to the Finals and about the Duke-North Carolina rivalry.
-The Bulls may have been part of an Oscar winning film.
-Stat guru Wayne Winston released his Post All-Star Break Team Ratings and, surprisingly the Magic and the Jazz top his list. He points out the defense has played 8.26 points better than the average.