The Orlando Magic built off a strong performance against Miami and snap a six-game losing streak. They accomplished one of those. Maybe not the one they wanted though.
Orlando is still on a losing streak. Kirk Hinrich's bucket with 25 seconds left gave Chicago the lead for good as Jameer Nelson could not answer on two opportunities to tie it up. The Bulls front line proved to be too much in the 96-92 victory, wasting another season-best effort (this time from Nelson) and another strong effort from Nikola Vucevic.
That was not enough with the Bulls getting 31 points and 11 rebounds from Carlos Boozer. That proved to be too much to overcome as the Bulls were the more balanced team and did what they needed to hold on and record the win.
Nelson reutrns big
The Magic needed their captain back on the floor to help finish games and to help stabilize the offense. With so many injuries, Orlando was depleted and it showed as the team struggled to execute against Miami behind record-breaking performances and struggled at everything in that loss to Toronto.
Getting Nelson back Wednesday against Chicago made Orlando a better team.
Nelson tied his career high with 32 points, hitting on 11 of 20 shots and getting to the line nine times. He carried the Magic for most of the game offensively and did everything but come up big at the end. He missed a couple of shots in the paint with the chance to tie the game.
Still, getting Nelson back from the bruised hip was a good sign and seeing him score a big 30-point game for the second time in three games was positive. Nelson appears to be taking more aggression in the offense and doing what he does best — score the basketball.
Nelson has improved as a passer, but in essence he is still a scorer. Maybe he has been chasing the 2009 version of himself, maybe he has tried to be the point guard everyone wants him to be. What was great about the last few games Nelson has played was that he was very much himself.
More of this Nelson please.
Inconsistency still reigns
The Magic seem to fix one problem and then another one comes up. It is like plugging a hole in a dam. Such is life as a middle-of-the-road team (or possibly even worse).
The Magic had defensive problems that plagued them throughout most of this losing streak that they seemed to have shored up in games against Miami and now Chicago — as Chicago shot only 46.8 percent from the floor and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter to allow the Magic back into the game.
But in this game, Nikola Vucevic could not man the post alone or do much with the versatile Carlos Boozer. Boozer scored 31 points and Taj Gibson scored 21 points and they each had 11 rebounds. That more than offset Vucevic's second straight solid performance of 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The Magic outrebounded the Bulls in the game, but the Bulls outscored the Magic 42-32 in the paint. They had 25 free throw attempts and were able to get into the lane throughout the evening.
Orlando started off the season playing extremely well in defending the paint. The team seemed more willing to get up 3-pointers on late roations or close outs rather than all players to wreak havoc in the paint. Whatever was working then is seemingly not working now. Teams have been able to beat the Magic into the paint of late and get the ball to players closer to the rim thanks to late roations.
This, undoubtedly, must improve.
In this seven-game losing streak, the Magic have lost five games by four points or fewer. The loss to the Bulls was number on that list.
This says a few things:
First, it says the Magic are still playing hard and are not hanging their heads. They believe they can win and are playing well enough to give themselves a chance. That is the biggest thing you can ask for from a young team still learning to play together and fighting for wins.
Second, it says the team struggles to finish when possessions become more important and execution becomes more important.
Perhaps, the Magic need the one guy they can truly get the ball to and create for others. Jameer Nelson can be that player in spots and he gave his team a chance to complete the comeback in the fourth quarter. Still, the Magic seem to need more.
Something is not working for this team late in games now — perhaps it is having to play from behind rather than with a small lead — and it seems that the team will continue this streak until the team figures it out.