Balance offensively has been Orlando's M.O. under Stan Van Gundy. Offense period has not been Chicago's method under Vinny Del Negro.
When Derrick Rose crashed to the floor after colliding with Dwight Howard in the first quarter -- making the layup in the process -- and was slow to get up, the task for the Bulls offense got that much harder. Rose slowly got up and made his free throw before leaving the game with a hip injury. He did not return.
Not that the Bulls were close with the Magic after Rose's two and a half minute cameo tonight.
Orlando had control of this one from the opening tip and easily got past Chicago for a 107-87 victory Wednesday night at the United Center. The Bulls struggled without their All-Star point guard as the Magic scored 41 points in the opening period and held the Bulls to 17 points.
It was the precise cutting offensive performance Orlando fans have longed for. The Magic controlled the glass and got out on the break. They got the ball to Dwight Howard early and worked inside-out. Howard led the way with 18 points and 14 rebounds and the Magic shot 12 of 32 from beyond the arc.
Orlando then kept its foot on the gas pedal. Chicago never got within 10 after the first quarter and never really threatened the lead seriously at all. The lead stayed above 20 points for most of the game for the easy win.
Howard led the way with 18 points and 14 rebounds, shooting seven of 10 from the floor. Vince Carter continued his resurgent play with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Matt Barnes surprised with 14 points and Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis each had 11 to round off scoring for the starters.
It would likely have been much different had Rose played more than two minutes tonight, but it is hard to see by how much. The Magic outrebounded the Bulls 51-41 and forced 13 turnovers and allowed 36.8 percent shooting. Obviously the rebounding margin was caused by a lot of missed shots -- Chicago did win the battle on the offensive glass 10-8.
But it was no coincidence the Bulls missed so many shots. Their offense could not get open looks or to the basket. They did go to the line 23 times (hitting 19 free throws) and forced 17 turnovers, but the Magic's defense was up to the challenge. In addition to Howard dominating the glass like usual, Marcin Gortat had 12 rebounds off the bench.
The bench did a good job maintaining the lead as Chicago's starters were just overwhelmed by Orlando's starting five. A 41-17 first quarter will make anyone's +/- look really good, but the difference between the average +23.4 of the starters (led by Carter's +31) and the -2.8 of the bench players shows how well the Bulls played to keep the game relatively close minus the first quarter.
It says something then that the Magic were able to maintain such a large lead despite a strong effort from Chicago's reserves. Luol Deng led all scorers with 23 points and Tyrus Thomas had 16 points off the bench.
This was the kind of win Orlando needed. After needing comebacks and blowing leads lately, the Magic needed to just come in and blow a team out of the water. It would have been easy to relax with Rose going out so early, but Orlando did not do that. The Magic went in for the kill and got the job done.