We are still quite bitter about our loss to the Hawks in the first round series. The Magic and its faithful are still trying to figure out exactly what the heck happened in its 4-2 loss to the Hawks. Orlando will be picking up those pieces over the next five months and trying to get back to playing at a championship level. There will be plenty of time to analyze exactly what went wrong and how to clean things up. For now, though, let's dream thanks to WhatIfSports.com...
Amway Center was loud as Orlando returned home with a 1-1 series tie from the Windy City. But with the team's experience, the Magic knew they would get a good shot from the Bulls in Game Three. Derrick Rose had his MVP night ruined by the spunky Magic team and now he obviously wanted to spoil Dwight Howard's return home.
Three-point shooting was key once again in Game Three. J.J. Redick drained a 3-pointer with three minutes left to give Orlando a 10-point lead and Hedo Turkoglu's four-point play with 96 seconds remaining propelled Orlando to a stunning 107-95 victory in Game Three to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
Dwight Howard got his points and got his help in this one. First, Howard scored 27 points and grabbed 17 rebounds while shooting 11 for 21 from the floor. But he once again got support from Orlando's 3-point shooters, as the team continues to find its rhythm after Game Five in the first round (... sigh). Jameer Nelson had 20 points and nine assists and Turkoglu added 19 points.
More importantly, the Magic made eight of their 18 3-point attempts -- one more than the Bulls did -- and improved to 21 of 47 in the two wins from long range. What might be more notable is that Orlando continued to get to the line against Chicago. Orlando had 28 free throw attempts with Jameer Nelson getting to the line to make nine of his 10 attempts.
Howard's presence in the paint seems to be doing enough to keep Derrick Rose from parading to the line. Rose still got his points, scoring 28 points. But he got to the line only three times and struggled to get others involved in recording "only" seven assists.
It is the very uncharacteristic thing about the simulation in this series. Orlando has been getting to the line and Chicago has been committing turnovers, something both these teams rarely did during the regular season. The Bulls' 19 turnovers, including five from Rose, almost erased their 15-11 advantage on the offensive glass and rebounding edge. It seems in the Game Two loss and the Game Three loss, Chicago did just one thing that cost it the game.
Luol Deng continued to be a pest with 19 points. But Chicago stayed largely under Orlando's defensive control. A 50-40 rebounding advantage in the Bulls' favor continued to be the only thing to nitpick in the Magic's effort. Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson both hit double digits in rebounding for Chicago. However Howard's presence does a good job of repelling any put backs it would seem.
Offensive balance continues to be a problem for the Magic. Orlando led for much of the fourth quarter but Chicago continued to chip away and took a few leads until Orlando could finally, and firmly, take control. The Bulls took an 87-86 lead midway through the final quarter when the Magic went on a 13-3 run to go up for good. It was another gritty performance for Orlando to pull out the win against the heavily favored Bulls.
Orlando will look to take a 3-1 series lead when Game Four is simulated Sunday. Hopefully it does not make us feel any worse about ourselves.
Dwight Howard: 25.3 PPG, 17.7 RPG
Jameer Nelson: 17.7 PPG, 7.7 APG
Hedo Turkoglu: 14.7 PPG, 4.7 APG
Derrick Rose: 24.3 PPG, 9.3 APG
Carlos Boozer: 17.0 PPG, 10.3 RPG
Luol Deng: 16.0 PPG, 3.3 APG