NBA Suspended Season Simulation: Orlando Magic vs. Chicago Bulls (March 12, 2020)

Nikola Vucevic is set to return to the Orlando Magic and will need to elevate his game. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
Nikola Vucevic is set to return to the Orlando Magic and will need to elevate his game. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

With the NBA on hiatus, we need some Orlando Magic basketball to cling to. So we are simulating the postponed games to see just where the Magic will finish.

Thursday night, I should have been heading to the Amway Center to get Orlando Magic lineup confirmations from coach Steve Clifford and whatever little question we might have. I should have been getting ready to see Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic and Markelle Fultz warm-up on the Amway Center floor, adorned in its City Edition anthracite.

Fans should have been getting ready to line into the Amway Center and collect their Jonathan Isaac bobblehead dolls. They should have been gearing up for the first game of an important 10-game stretch with eight at home that would very well make or break their playoff positioning.

The atmosphere should have been heightened. There should be that air of nervousness, anticipation and excitement that usually precedes a basketball game. Especially one in the middle of a playoff race and coming off a fantastic road trip.

All anyone wants right now is a bit of normalcy just to distract from the reality of a globe-wide pandemic.

But that is exactly why the games cannot go on right now. Large gatherings of thousands of people in the midst of a contagious virus is not a good idea to slow the spread of this potentially fatal disease. And so the NBA ultimately determined basketball was secondary to the public health and put the 2020 season on hiatus.

It sounds like the league will be shuttered for a minimum of 30 days as the NBA assesses its options moving forward and waits to see whether the virus runs its course and the pandemic dissipates. Hopefully limiting large events and gatherings like this will slow the spread of the disease in some fashion.

Life has to move on. And while not having Magic games, the NBA or even sports, in general, will be tough, all three will be back very soon.

The season, in reality, might be on hiatus. But we are still here to give you your Orlando Magic fix.

The plan here at Orlando Magic Daily is to continue writing and providing some form of Magic-related distraction for you. We have a few posts leftover from the season that we will spin out and we will break down where the Magic stand entering the hiatus. We also will ramp up some previews for when the season gets back and start some draft preview.

But, for now, we also want to get some type of game fix too.

As many people did during the Lockout in 2011, we still have a schedule in front of us that will go on unfulfilled. And we have a high-powered video game with updated stats and rotations that will allow us to see what could have been.

So why not use it? It is not like we are not doing anything else, right?

NBA2K20 still has updated rosters and stats for fans to play with and try to simulate a season that is not anymore. Unfortunately, there is currently a glitch that is not allowing fans to play out the rest of the season using the Play from Today feature in MyLeague.

So, for the purposes of this exercise (for now, at least), I will be simulating the Magic’s games with 12-minute quarters using the NBA Today function in Play Now to maintain current rosters and rotations.

I will simulate non-Magic games for now using odds from FiveThirtyEight and NBA GameSim.

We will start today with the Orlando Magic’s game against the Chicago Bulls:

38. Prediction. 77. 24. 99

The Orlando Magic have been struggling defensively. The team that was supposed to have a supreme defensive identity has been giving up points with ease. Fortunately for them, they have had the best offense since the All-Star Break. That can cover a lot of problems.

So what happens when the shots do not fall? What does this team rely on? Can they reach back and find their defense.

The answer in our first simulated game was their defense. They could indeed tighten up, protect the rim and defend at a high level, until their offense took over.

The Magic used a run at the end of the third quarter to take firm control and go up by as much as 24 points. From there, they used a stifling defense that kept the Chicago Bulls out of the paint and on the perimeter to get out in transition and burn the Bulls for a 99-77 win in our NBA 2K simulation.

The Magic were happy to have Evan Fournier back in the lineup. The guard scored 17 points and hit 6 of 15 shots, getting going during that decisive third-quarter run. They got good pacing too from Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon with 14 and 15 points respectively.

But it was Nikola Vucevic who proved a rock down low. He scored 16 points to go with 24 rebounds, blocking two shots for good measure. The Magic were able to attack the offensive glass.

Coach Steve Clifford probably would not be thrilled with the team’s poor rebounding on the other end — 15 offensive rebounds for 16 second-chance points. But the Magic did a good job defending the 3-point line, negating that advantage almost completely.

Orlando took the lead late in the first quarter after a slow start and never really let go, even though they never really pulled away until the third quarter.

A quality win for a playoff team over a non-playoff team.

Unfortunately, the Magic would learn later in the night the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Golden State Warriors, leaving them still one-half game out of seventh in the Eastern Conference.

So how realistic is this?

Well, the Magic probably would not have had Evan Fournier back in time for this game in real life. NBA 2K likes to bring players back sooner than their injuries (they seem to think Jonathan Isaac too could be available, although he was not used in this game).

Still, the Magic’s offense is playing significantly better than it was in this simulation. It was odd to see the computer try to use Wesley Iwundu a ton off the dribble. And Khem Birch got some minutes at the 4 even though he is currently not in the rotation.

Excuse some poor programming on that front.

But overall, this game played out similarly to how Magic games have played out recently. Outside of the shooting percentages, the Magic’s defense struggled early on, especially on the offensive glass, but tightened up to take a vice grip on the game.

That is how the Magic defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves a short while ago and has been their m.o. since the All-Star Break in wins.

Next. Orlando Magic have made progress amid playoff battle. dark

The Bulls did not have the offensive firepower to stay with them when that tightened up. I would call this a fair result.