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...
In the end, it wasn't Derrick Rose or Dwight Howard who determined who would face the Miami Heat in the simulated Eastern Conference Finals. In a battle of two defensive-minded teams, the game simply came down to who could protect the ball and who could make shots. And whether it was reality or a simulation, the Magic did not measure up.
The Bulls shot better and forced more turnovers in the decisive Game Seven, taking home a 100-89 victory to win the simulated Magic/Bulls series.
These decisive games always reveal a team's character -- its heart, determination and ability to execute. There is no hiding or changing your identity in these games.
The Bulls are a hard-nosed defensive team that bases its attack on Derrick Rose's ability to get into the paint seemingly at will. Chicago then gets you with its burly forwards who can attack the offensive glass. We saw how dangerous the Bulls can be both defensively and on the offensive glass in their dominant Game One victory over the Heat.
The Magic base their offense and defense around Dwight Howard and the shooters around him. The Magic do not get to the free throw line as often and rely on Howard producing the space for 3-point shooters to fire away or drive through the gaps to generate offense. Likely after this Game Seven defeat, the national pundits would be saying Orlando lived by the three and died by the three.
Chicago simply executed its game plan and played its style of play to win the series.
The Magic shot 10 of 31 from the floor to keep themselves in the game after committing 17 turnovers and shooting 41.4 percent from the floor. Meanwhile Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 16 rebounds, Joakim Noah had 11 points and 15 rebounds and the two combined for nine of Chicago's 13 offensive rebounds. The Bulls played more to their identity than the Magic and that is how you win a Game Seven.
Dwight Howard walked off the floor with 22 points and 12 rebounds but commited six turnovers. The other co-captain, Jameer Nelson, nearly had a triple double with 12 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. But his five turnovers hurt dearly. Ryan Anderson scored 20 off the bench. But no other Magic players scored in double figures, showing the inconsistency of Orlando's offense. It just could not get going.
The Bulls, even with a worse effective field goal percentage just had more going offensively.
Luol Deng scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Bulls offensively. Chicago went to the line 24 times compared to Orlando's 10. The Bulls were playing more aggressively in this simulation.
Chicago took control in the second quarter, taking a 17-point lead into the half and holding on from there. The Magic got within five in the fourth quarter thanks to a couple Ryan Anderson 3-pointers. But the Magic got no closer. They were playing from behind once again because of their 3-point shooting and turnovers. Then the 3-point shooting nearly brought them back.
The postseason does not take kindly to this type of desperation. It appears Orlando would not have reached its third consecutive Eastern Conference Finals and Chicago would win the series.
Photos via DayLife.com.