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...
When the Lakers were eliminated from the postseason this weekend, the questions began. Even with Orlando tied in its series with Chicago 2-2, the questions came for Dwight Howard. The visibly upset Howard tried to deflect attention to the game at hand. But the national media is going to do what the national media does.
Through the unnecessary speculation, Howard played one of his best games of the series. And Jameer Nelson, the team's co-captain, joined him in solidarity as the Magic shocked the Bulls and took a 3-2 series lead with a 102-92 win at United Center in Game Five.
Howard scored 28 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked six shots. That seems to be par for the course for Howard as the postseason goes on. What was surprising was seeing Jameer Nelson outplay MVP Derrick Rose. Nelson scored 24 points and dished out nine assists to go with seven rebounds. His near triple double on 5-for-10 shooting from 3-point range proved to be a key difference.
Derrick Rose scored his usual 20 points, dished out his 10 assists and grabbed his eight rebounds. But the Bulls could not recover from a dreadful defensive first quarter. The Magic scored the first eight points and won the first quarter 34-22. It was 29-9 by the four-minute mark and Orlando never really looked back from there.
Chicago got within five in the thrid quarter and no closer than six in the fourth quarter. The Magic effectively had control of this one throughout thanks to Howard's inside presence and Nelson's scoring ability. It did not mean the offense was ever easy... for both teams.
The Magic shot a paltry 37.2 percent and 14 for 39 from beyond the arc. The Bulls actually shot better at 42.4 percent. However offensive rebounding, a major key when the Magic and Bulls got together in the regular season, was decidedly in the Magic's favor. Orlando had 15 offensive boards to Chicago's nine. The Magic held a 56-52 advantage on the glass.
Nobody on the Bulls was able to get into a good rhythm offensively. The stats show that. Rose was 7 for 17. Luol Deng scored 16 points on 5-for-15 shooting. Carlos Boozer scored 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting. Nobody on the Bulls could get going.
J.J. Redick and Taj Gibson each had 10 points off the bench as neither team got much from their bench.
This seemed to be more of a game you would expect between two of the top defensive teams in the league. After Orlando's big first quarter, the team did not get much going. The Magic scored only 42 points in the second half. The Bulls did not do much better with 45. Howard's presence defensively kept Rose from the basket (just four free throw attempts) and kept the Bulls offense stagnant.
After the game, the only questions about Dwight's future were about closing out the top-seeded Bulls in Game Six. Game Six will be simulated Thursday.
Photo via DayLife.com.