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...
Amazingly Orlando came from behind to defeat Atlanta. J.J. Redick's 3-pointer sparked an incredible overtime run that carried over into the Game Seven blowout win. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford finally stopped hitting shots while Orlando found the spark from beyond the arc once again. The Hawks were sent home in a disappointing fashion.
So onto the Bulls and the next challenge for Dwight Howard and company. A series that may settle that MVP debate once and for all. But would the Magic's momentum carry on?
Apparently not. Dwight Howard nearly poured in a triple double scoring 30 points, grabbing 20 rebounds and dishing out seven assists. But Derrick Rose's 22 points and 14 assists propelled the Bulls to a Game One victory 112-103. The difference proved to be a 33-24 third quarter as the Magic could not get going from beyond the arc.
In fact it is Chicago who came out of the gates in this series firing. The Bulls hit 15 of 25 3-pointers as the Magic continued to struggle from long range going 8 for 25. Rebounding against Chicago continued to be a problem on the glass, gaining a rebounding edge 51-44.
Four of Chicago's five starters scored in double figures with Kyle Korver coming off the bench to pitch in 18 points, shooting 5 for 8 from long range. Even Keith Bogans scored 14 points.
Geesh, where did Orlando's defense go? Expect both teams to step up their defensive intensity as this series goes on. The Magic will not be able to survive if the offensively challenged Bulls shoot 61 percent effective field goal percentage for the series. This could be a quick series.
I would say more, but unfortunately I forgot to have WhatIfSports generate the play by play (my bad). Chicago erased a five-point halftime deficit and took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter as the Bulls picked up the win.
Jason Richardson continued to struggle with his foot injury to score eight points on 2-for-5 shooting. Keith Bogans and Luol Deng did a good job holding him down, although Hedo Turkoglu seemed to find his rhythm a bit in scoring 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting.
The bottom line is Chicago's defense stepped up when Orlando's could not. Howard's six turnovers ultimately hurt the Magic as he became Orlando's only real offensive option. Sure Jameer Nelson scored 17 points and Brandon Bass added 11, taking advantage of the injured Carlos Boozer. But in close games this late in the postseason, consistency matters even more.
Orlando is still fighting some of those issues.
Game Two will be simulated Wednesday. Chicago leads the series 1-0.
Dwight Howard: 30.0 PPG, 20.0 RPG, 7.0 APG, 3.0 BPG
Jameer Nelson: 17.0 PPG, 6.0 APG
Hedo Turkoglu: 15.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.0 APG
Derrick Rose: 22.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 14.0 APG
Carlos Boozer: 19.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG
Joakim Noah: 7.0 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 6.0 APG