Orlando Magic vs. Chicago Bulls (Feb. 6, 2021): 3 Things To Watch, Odds and Prediction

Zach LaVine is one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. And the Chicago Bulls' future seems to be in doubt. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Zach LaVine is one of the most dynamic scorers in the league. And the Chicago Bulls' future seems to be in doubt. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic get a second shot at the Chicago Bulls after beating them behind Nikola Vucevic’s career night. The team is climbing its way back into the playoff picture one win at a time.

Chicago Bulls (8-13) vs. Orlando Magic (9-14)


7 p.m./FOX Sports Florida




$13-$605 on StubHub

2021 Season Series:

Magic 123, Bulls 119

in Orlando on Feb. 5; Tonight in Orlando

PaceOff. Rtg.Def. Rtg.eFG%O.Reb.%TO%FTR

OMD Prediction

It would have been nice if the Orlando Magic could have a day or two to celebrate Nikola Vucevic’s career-high 43-point effort. The Magic needed the win and they can work to reinforce things. Instead, they are right back into the ringer against the same team. Another matchup with the Chicago Bulls with the same matchups and the same battles. Of course, none of it is the same, despite the Magic’s relative success in this situation (5-3 all season in consecutive games against the same opponent this season, including two sweeps).

The Bulls will undoubtedly be different. They will have a different scheme to go up against Nikola Vucevic, including harder doubles at him. Zach LaVine was passive for three quarters and then scored 24 in the fourth quarter to nearly lead the Bulls back into the game. Of course, a lot of supporting players had big games too. And Lauri Markkanen left the game early with an injury. So who is to say what will happen? It should be another good game.

Prediction. 109. 24. 108. 38

3 Keys To Watch

Can I get an encore?

When Nikola Vucevic has a big game it is usually because he is going up against soft defenses that try to sink into the paint and give him space on the perimeter. Add in the occasional post-up against weak post defenders or smaller post defenders and that is a toxic stew for any defense. Nikola Vucevic feasted on Daniel Gafford in the post early on and forced the Chicago Bulls to go to Thaddeus Young. That did not help matters much more.

The Bulls started to double Vucevic from the baseline pretty hard any time he caught the ball. That required a quick recognition and a difficult cross-court pass to get players open. The Magic shot 11 for 27 from deep with strong shooting performances from Evan Fournier and Cole Anthony especially. More importantly than Vucevic repeating his performance, the other players have to step up again too.

The in-between

Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford was complimentary of his team’s defense through three quarters. He felt the team competed well and executed their gameplan well. That was enough to give the Magic an 11-point lead to enter the fourth. Still, the Bulls scored 111.0 points per 100 possessions. That is better than the Magic’s post-Markelle Fultz average, but still not a great number.

Perhaps a sign the Magic’s defensive scheme worked is how well the team defended the paint and forced mid-range shots. The Bulls made 7 of 17 mid-range jumpers (41.2-percent). They make 41.6-percent of their mid-range shots on just 11.9 attempts per game. Granted Chicago still hit 20 of 32 shots in the paint. Orlando will have to do a better job locking down the paint and especially slowing both Zach LaVine’s quick drives to the basket and rookie Patrick Williams, who scored 20 points in Friday’s game.

But if the strategy was to shoot only mid-range jumpers, they can live with these margins. Orlando largely did a good job containing the ball and forcing these in-between shots that defenses want to give up.

Cole world

The most fun storyline for the Orlando Magic this season is watching Cole Anthony’s maturation. The rookie had a reputation for being a bit of a gunner from school and a player with a scorer’s mentality. That has not been what the Magic have gotten. He is a scorer for sure. He knows how to get to his spots and hit from the elbow. Anthony is still learning to finish at the rim. And most importantly, he is still developing as a playmaker.

Coach Steve Clifford said the Magic are watching Cole Anthony’s minutes some. They have had to lean on him a lot, playing him more than 30 minutes in the last eight games. The coaching staff believes he needed the days off as much as anyone.

Next. Magic can't try to do too much to get out of rut. dark

It certainly looked like it refreshed him. He had his best playmaking game of the season, scoring 17 points to go with nine assists. He was in control offensively and did a lot of work early to get Nikola Vucevic going with passes to the top of the key for 3-pointers. The turnovers are still a problem, but something that a rookie point guard especially has to go through.