Orlando Magic Blog

Group Blog talking about the NBA 2009 Eastern Conference Champions. Due to the amazing success of the 2009 playoff run comments are now frequently deleted to kill offensive comments, incoherence, or asininity. Comments can no longer be anonymous and require either a Blogger or OpenID account.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Magic make it 2 in a row on road trip with win over SEA

After SEA led 59-53 midway through the third quarter, the Magic turned up their play a notch scoring 21 of the next 27 pts and cruised to a 94-84 win. The Magic, now 12-4, and winners of 9 of their last 10 games, now move 2 games ahead of DET in the East and 2 1/2 ahead of CLE.

DHoward led the way for the Magic with 24 pts 12 rebs, on perfect 8 of 8 shooting. He was the only starter to score in double figures, but the bench did their usual stellar job, led by CArroyo with 16 pts and DMilicic with 14 pts. Ray Allen scored 21 and Rashard Lewis 18 for SEA, but only one other player, Johan Petro with 13 pts, scored in double figures.

The Magic (34 of 67, 50.7%) outscored SEA (31 of 80, 38.8%) from the floor 70-68. The Magic (24 of 33, 72.7%) had the edge at the FT line over SEA (16 of 17, 94.1%). Magic won the rebounding battle 40-35. Both teams had similar assist/turnover ratios, with the Magic at 21-17 and SEA at 18-14. The Magic reserves dominated, outscoring the SEA bench 48-17.

Even though Dwight was the only starter to score in double figures, the bench did a great job in coming to the rescue, as 4 reserves saw over 20 minutes of playing time. Great job by the Magic in holding down two high-scoring teams in UT and SEA. Brian Hill deserves some credit for this too, and for good player rotation. It's on to Portland FRI night.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Magic/Sonics preview

The Magic (11-4, 4-3 road) will look for their second straight win on the road trip as they face struggling SEA (6-9, 2-5 home). SEA is coming off a big 98-78 home loss to the Spurs on SUN. G Ray Allen led SEA with 21 pts. The Magic beat SEA on NOV 8th in a thriller 88-87 thanks to HTurkoglu's last second shot.

Allen and F Rashard Lewis are the 1-2 scoring punch for the Sonics; Allen averaging 25.5 ppg on 44.2% shooting and Lewis averaging 22.9 ppg on 50.2% shooting. G Luke Ridnour averages 15.5 ppg and C Chris Wilcox averages 10.5 ppg. SEA coach Bob Hill was recently very critical of the SEA reserves, saying he needs much more out of them. SEA averages 100.4 ppg, while allowing 101.1 ppg. The Magic averages 96.8 ppg, while allowing just 92.7 ppg.

SEA has won 11 of the last 14 games with the Magic in SEA. SEA will be fired up and ready to go after their bad game against SA. The Magic need to guard against a letdown after a big win over Utah MON. The Magic's superior depth, sound defensive play, and good decision-making with the ball should bring another victory, particularly if they can shoot better they did against UT. However, SEA is a 2 1/2 pt favorite (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Magic turn up D, stun Utah

A great start for the Magic (11-4) to the road trip, led by DHoward's 21 pts and 16 rebs, as the Magic beat the NBA's best team, the Jazz (12-3), 88-75.

Even though Dwight shot just 4 of 11, he was an outstanding 13 of 16 from the FT line, and drew the praise of Jerry Sloan about how the Jazz could not stop him on the boards. GHill scored 16 pts, JNelson 15 pts, and CArroyo led the bench with 13 pts. Carlos Boozer led UT with 21 pts 9 rebs. Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko had 13 and 11 pts respectively.

Both teams had an off-night from the field. The Magic (30 of 76, 39.5%) outscored UT (29 of 68, 42.6%) from the field 62-59. The Magic were just 2 of 11 from 3 pt range, UT 1 of 12. The Magic (26 of 34, 76.5%) had the edge on FTs (UT 16 of 20 80%). The Magic dominated the boards 45-36, including 15-5 on the offensive end. Both teams had similar assist/turnover ratios (ORL 11 assists 14 TOs, UT 19-21), but the Magic took better care of the ball. The Magic bench did well again, outscoring the UT bench 29-13. Darko (5 pts 5 rebs), and TAriza (8 pts 4 rebs) played well in addition to Arroyo.

Great job by the Magic in keeping the Jazz in a halfcourt game, as they realized the Jazz have won all 12 games when they scored 100 or more pts. Even though the Jazz scored 13 pts in a row late in the fourth quarter to cut the Magic lead to 8, the Magic didn't panic and finished the game off. After a well-deserved day off TUE, the Magic travel to SEA WED.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Magic/Utah preview

It's the best in the East vs the best in the West Monday night, as the Magic (10-4, 3-3 away) take on the Jazz (12-2, 7-0 home). The Jazz are coming off their second loss of the season, losing to Golden ST SAT 91-78.

The Jazz have many players who are having strong seasons. PF Carlos Boozer, averaging 21.9 ppg on 57.7% shooting and 12.7 rebs; second year PG Deron Williams, who helped lead Illinois to the NCAA championship game in 2005, averaging 17.7 ppg and 9.2 assists; C Mehmet Okur, averaging 15.9 ppg and 9.2 rebs; former Magic G/F Matt Harpring averaging 12.5 ppg, and G Derek Fisher, averaging 10.5 ppg. Former Magic G Gordie Giricek is averaging 7.9 ppg on 51.2% shooting. F Andrei Kirilenko is back from injury, averaging 7.4 ppg, 5.6 rebs and 2.8 blocks per game. Rookie Paul Millsap is doing well, averaging 7.1 ppg and 4.9 rebs.

The Jazz average 106.1 ppg, and allow 100.2 ppg. The Magic average 97.4 ppg, and allow 93.9 ppg. UT has beaten the Magic 8 of the last 10 games in UT. A key for the Magic will be defense, as the Jazz have lost their only 2 games they didn't score 100 or more pts. UT is a 5 1/2 pt favorite (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Long road ahead for the Magic

Let's take a look at the teams and their current records the Magic will face during the 6 game road trip which starts MON night:

-NOV 27 at Utah (12-2, 7-0 home)
-NOV 29 at Seattle (6-9, 2-5 home)
-DEC 1 at Portland (6-9, 4-3 home)
-DEC 3 at LA Clippers (6-6, 6-1 home)
-DEC 4 at Sacramento (7-5, 5-2 home)
-DEC 6 at Indiana (7-7, 4-2 home)

If the Magic can split the 6 games, I think we would classify that as a successful trip. Utah, the Clippers, and Sacramento will be the most difficult games. If the Magic can somehow steal one of those games, and defeat Seattle, Portland, and the Pacers to go 4-2, that would really be an added bonus. The Magic should still be leading the SE division after the trip, and then comes a string of 12 home games out of 15, where the team can then really establish themselves as a strong contender in the East.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Magic start fast, coast past ATL

The Magic (10-4), thanks to a balanced effort that saw 6 players score in double figures and 11 of the 12 players who played score, led at the half by 28 pts and coasted to a 98-79 win over the Hawks. The Magic have now won 7 of their last 8 games.

CArroyo led the balanced attack with 15 pts off the bench. HTurkoglu scored 14 pts, KDooling and KBogans scored 13 each, and DHoward and JNelson scored 11 each. J.J. Redick saw his first action of the season and scored 2 pts. Shelden Williams and Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 16 apiece.

The Magic (35 of 77, 45.5%) outscored ATL (26 of 73, 35.6%) from the floor 77-54. The Magic hit on 7 of 16 3 pters. ATL (25 of 33, 75.8%) had the edge at the FT line (ORL 21 of 29, 72.4%). The Magic outrebounded ATL 46-41. The Magic had the better assist/turnover ratio of 21-17, while ATL had a dismal 10-19 ratio. The Magic bench was strong yet again, outscoring the ATL bench 49-32.

Great job by everyone playing well in Grant's absence. Nice job by BHill making sure the team was ready to play this game after a tough win in MIA FRI night. Nice to see that Darko's minutes are gradually increasing (7 pts 5 rebs 3 assists in 31 minutes). The Magic now go out West for a tough 6 game road trip starting MON at Utah.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

ATL/Magic preview

Payback will be on the minds of the Magic (9-4, 6-1 home), as the Hawks (5-5, 2-2 road) come into TDW SAT night. ATL is coming off a 97-93 win against TOR FRI night. The Magic played probably their worst game of the year in their previous game against the Hawks, losing 95-82.

ATL is led by G Joe Johnson (27.6 ppg on 49% shooting). C ZaZa Pachulia averages 15.3 ppg and 6.9 rebs. G Ty Lue is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 14.7 pts and 4.6 assists. F Josh Smith averages 13.8 ppg and 7.8 rebs. G Josh Childress is expected to miss tonight's game with a sprained foot. GHill will miss the game for the Magic, attending his grandmother's funeral. ATL averages 98.3 ppg, while allowing 96.4 ppg. ORL averages 97.4 ppg, while allowing 95.1 ppg.

The Magic have been dominant at home against ATL. They have won 4 in a row and 12 of their last 13 overall at home vs ATL. Despite not having GHill for the game, the strong Magic bench should play a prominent role, and look for DHoward to have a big game after scoring just 11 pts in the first game against the Hawks. Magic are favored by 7 pts (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Magic take over top spot in East with win over MIA

The Heat played one of their better games of the season, but the Magic prevailed 107-104, led by GHill's 24 pts (9 of 15 FG). Thanks to IND beating CLE, the Magic, at 9-4, now are in first place in the East, and 2 1/2 games ahead of ATL in the SE division.

DHoward, despite shooting just 6 of 19, had 23 pts 12 rebs. JNelson had 14 pts 5 assists, and just 1 TO. Darko had a nice game off the bench with 11 pts 8 rebs. Dwyane Wade had a typical game for him with 33 pts (15 of 20 FTs) and a career-high 15 assists. Udonis Haslem added 19 pts, and Alonzo Mourning 17 pts. Dorell Wright had a double-double of 12 pts 13 rebs.

The Magic (37 of 81, 45.7%) outscored MIA (36 of 85, 42.4%) from the field 77-75. ORL was 3 of 7 from 3 pt range, MIA 3 of 9. The Magic (30 of 37, 81.1%) had the edge at the FT line (MIA 29 of 37, 78.4%). Miami had a surprising edge on the boards 51-38. The Magic had their best assist/turnover ratio of the year at 20-8, while the Heat also had a very good ratio of 21-8. The Magic depth was dominant, as the reserves outscored MIAs reserves 32-8, despite the fact two MIA starters (Walker and Payton) were demoted to the bench.

Very encouraging win for the Magic, winning a close game on the road, taking the best shot from a Heat team that's desperate for a win. Magic are now 5-1 in games decided by 5 pts or less. The Magic is back in action again SAT night against ATL.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Magic/Heat preview

The Miami Heat (4-7, 2-4 home) are just a shell of the team that won the NBA championship just 5 months ago. They are not only getting beat, they are getting blown out of many games. MIA has a 3 game losing streak at home, and has been outscored by an average of a whopping 17.7 pts per game in those losses. And don't forget the embarrassing 42 pt loss at the hands of CHI the first game of the season. Pat Riley, who was brilliant in coaching the team in the finals, now is seemingly helpless to do anything to help or motivate this aging, slow, unathletic, injury-prone team.

Dwyane Wade is trying to do all he can, but unlike last season's playoffs, is getting absolutely no help at all. Wade leads the Heat in 4 categories: scoring (26.6 ppg), assists (7.0 per game), steals (1.6 per game) and FT % (84.1%). Udonis Haslem is averaging 12.3 ppg, while Antoine Walker is at 10.6 ppg, and Jason Williams at 10.3 ppg. Shaq will be out for at least another month. The Heat is coming off a 106-86 beatdown at San Antonio.

The Magic (8-4, 2-3 road) have won 5 of their last 6 games. DHoward has been very impressive, and leads the league in rebounding at 13.8 rebs per game and is fourth in FG% at 60.5%. MIA is averaging just 88.7 ppg and is allowing 99.5 ppg. ORL is averaging 96.6 ppg and is allowing 94.3 ppg. Magic have lost 10 of their last 12 games against MIA, but split 4 games last season. Many things point to a Magic blowout here, but Magic are just 1 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Magic get even with Pacers

The Magic (8-4), led by JNelson's 22 pts, 5 assists, and 3 steals with just 1 TO held on to beat the Pacers (6-6) 96-91.

Three other players scored in double figures for the Magic: DHoward (16 pts 11 rebs), GHill (14 pts 6 rebs), and Darko off the bench (11 pts 6 rebs 3 blocks). Jermaine O'Neal led IND with 23 pts 11 rebs. Stephen Jackson and Jamaal Tinsley each added 19 pts. Al Harrington, who had scored 32 pts against the Magic two weeks ago, was held to just 4 pts this time on 2 of 13 shooting.

The Magic (34 of 69, 49.3%) outscored IND (31 of 77, 40.3%) from the floor 70-67. IND shot 5 of 12 from 3 pt range, while the Magic were just 2 of 8. The Magic (26 of 43, 60.5%) outscored IND (24-29, 82.8%) from the FT line, but the Magic's FT shooting left a lot to be desired. IND won the rebounding battle 45-41. The Magic had a poor assist/turnover ratio of 12-16, while the Pacers had a poor ratio also of 17-19. The Magic bench, which only scored 12 pts against MEM, was a lot better scoring 32 pts, while the IND bench scored 33.

Nice job by the Magic shutting down Harrington this time. 17 missed FTs by ORL made the game a lot closer than it should have been. At least the Magic proved they could beat IND, as the Pacers had beaten the Magic 5 of their last 6 in ORL and 4 in a row overall. Magic have Turkey Day off, then travel to MIA FRI to play the struggling Heat.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

IND/Magic preview

Indiana, at 6-5 (3-3 road), comes to TDW Wednesday night to play the Magic, at 7-4 (5-1 home). IND is coming off a 93-88 victory over MIL Tues night, their second win in a row. Jermaine O'Neal led with 26 pts 13 rebs, Jamaal Tinsley 17 pts 9 assists, and Al Harrington grabbed 18 rebs.

Harrington leads IND in scoring with 18 ppg and 7.5 rebs. O'Neal averages 17 ppg and 9.3 rebs. Also averaging double figures is G Stephen Jackson at 11.3 ppg, and F Danny Granger at 11.1 ppg. Former Magic G Darrell Armstrong is averaging 6.3 ppg off the bench on 54.6% shooting. IND averages 94.6 ppg, and allows 97.4 ppg. The Magic average 96.6 ppg, while allowing 94.4 ppg.

The Magic have lost 4 games in a row to IND, and 5 out of 6 at home to the Pacers. IND beat the Magic 2 weeks ago 93-83, led by Al Harrington's 32 pts. The Magic will have to bounce back after blowing a 7 pt lead with 5 1/2 minutes remaining against MEM on Mon. The Pacers have come from behind their last two wins, so the Magic will have to play a 48 minute game and BHill will hopefully make better use of the bench than he did against MEM. No line out yet, but the Magic will be favored.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Magic collapse in final 5 minutes in loss to MEM

Leading 80-73 with 5:33 remaining in the game, it looked like the Magic were on their way to their 5th victory in a row. Inexplicably, the Magic suffered a serious meltdown as MEM scored 21 of the next 23 pts and won going away 95-86 to break their 7 game losing streak.

All 5 starters scored in double figures for the Magic. DHoward was superb with 24 pts 23 rebs. GHill added 16 pts 7 rebs 6 assists, HTurkoglu (4 of 16 FG) and JNelson 12 pts each, and TBattie added 10. PF Hakim Warrick led MEM with 26 pts 10 rebs. G Kyle Lowry had a terrific game off the bench with 16 pts, 6 assists, 5 rebs, and 5 steals with 0 TOs. Jake Tsakalidis and Mike Miller added 11 pts each. The Magic reserves had by far their worst game of the season, as KBogans led with only 4 pts.

MEM (37 of 82, 45.1%) outscored ORL (34 of 78. 43.6%) from the floor 79-71. MEM shot 5 of 10 from 3 pt range, while the Magic were just 3 of 14. MEM (16 of 21, 76.2%) had the edge at the FT line (ORL 15 of 18, 83.3%). The Magic dominated the boards 50-37. MEM had a very good assist/turnover ratio at 19-9, while the Magic had a 23-18 ratio. The MEM bench dominated the Magic bench, outscoring them 43-12, as the Magic reserves combined to shoot just 5 of 21. Darko was shut out on 0 of 5 shooting.

BHill elected to give the starters heavy minutes, as only Battie played under 33 minutes among the starters. The Magic had won several close games this year. The fact they were unable to put away a 1-win team is rather disturbing. The Magic, now at 7-4, need to get their act together WED vs IND.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Magic/Memphis preview

The first-place Magic, at 7-3 and winners of 5 in a row and 6 of 7, face the Memphis Grizzlies, who have the worst record in the NBA at 1-8, and won't have center Pau Gasol back until JAN. MEM is coming off a 89-84 home loss to DAL on SAT. Talented rookie forward Rudy Gay scored 23 pts to lead the Grizzlies.

Former Magic G Chucky Atkins leads MEM in scoring with 16.1 ppg. Former Magic rookie-of-the-year Mike Miller is averaging 15.4 ppg and 6.9 rebs. Forward Hakim Warrick (13.7 ppg) and PF Stromile Swift (12.0 ppg) also average in double figures. Rudy Gay averages 9.9 ppg. MEM averages 93.9 ppg, while allowing 98.7 ppg. ORL averages 97.7 ppg, while allowing 94.6 ppg. MEM also has the worst shooting team in the league at 41.2%.

The Magic have lost their last 4 games in a row in MEM and 7 of their last 8 overall to MEM. During their 4 game winning streak, the Magic have been shooting well, defending well, rebounding well, and getting outstanding bench play and fairly decent coaching. That formula should hold true tonight. The Magic are 3 1/2 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Magic make it 4 in a row with win over CHA

The Magic, now at 7-3, are 2 games ahead in first place in the SE division thanks to a 97-83 win over CHA. After a sluggish 1-2 start, the Magic have won 6 of their last 7 games.

DHoward led the way with his second 20-20 game of the year, 24 pts and 21 rebs. GHill added 15 pts, JNelson and CArroyo combined for 17 pts and 6 assists, and Darko led another strong effort by the bench with 14 pts. Darko also added 8 rebs, 4 blocks, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 24 minutes. Emeka Okafor led CHA with 26 pts on 13 of 15 shooting and 9 rebs. Sean May added 12 pts, and Adam Morrison 10 pts, but only shot 5 of 15.

The Magic (36 of 78, 46.2%) outscored CHA (31 of 78, 39.7%) from the floor 77-63. The Magic were 5 of 10 on 3 pters, while CHA was a woeful 1 of 17. FTs were even (CHA 20-26, 76.9%; ORL 20 of 27, 74.1%). ORL outrebounded CHA 47-43. The Magic also had a better assist/turnover ratio of 21-15, compared to 19-16 for CHA. The Magic bench was once again dominant, outscoring the Bobcats bench 39-19.

Dwight proved once again why he was the Number 1 draft pick in 2004 over Okafor. Nothing against Okafor, who is going to have an outstanding career if he can stay healthy, but the sky is the limit for Dwight. Dwight had only 1 TO against CHA, and shot 10 of 13 from the FT line, 2 areas that he has struggled in at times this season. Just 15 TOs for the Magic... that's a good sign also. Next game at MEM MON night.

Morrison, CHA visit Magic SAT night

The Charlotte Bobcats, at 2-6, conclude their 3 game road trip tonight at the first-place Magic (6-3). CHA is coming off the upset of the year so far in the NBA, beating the Spurs in SA WED night 95-92 in OT. Rookie Adam Morrison led CHA with 27 pts.

Emeka Okafor is having a tremendous year after missing much of last season due to injury. Okafor leads CHA in 4 categories: PTS (19.1), FG% (53.1%), REBS (12.3) and Blocks (4.1). PG Brevin Knight and Morrison are tied for second in scoring at 14.9 ppg. Known for his long-range shooting, Morrison is shooting just 39.3% from the field and 38.2% from 3 pt range. He has shot well the last two games though. Raymond Felton averages 13.1 ppg and Sean May 10.4 ppg. Grant Hill leads a balanced Magic attack with 16.3 ppg. CHA is averaging 93.5 ppg while allowing 99.1 ppg. ORL is averaging 97.8 ppg while allowing 95.9 ppg.

Both CHA and the Magic haven't played since Wednesday. It should be a great battle underneath the basket between DHoward and Okafor. Look for the Magic depth to wear down CHA. The Magic are favored by 8 1/2 pts (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reserves carry Magic over DEN for 3rd win in a row

The Magic were able to overcome 26 TOs, 34 pts from DEN SF Carmelo Anthony, and below average games from DHoward and JNelson, thanks to strong bench play and hot long-range shooting in a 108-99 win over DEN. The Magic are now 6-3 and have won 5 out of their last 6.

KDooling led the way off the bench with 25 pts on 8 of 14 shooting, including 5 of 5 from 3 pt range. CArroyo had another nice performance off the bench with 14 pts, 5 assists, and just 1 TO. HTurkoglu added 18 pts and GHill 15. Dwight scored 9 pts on 2 of 5 shooting with 8 rebounds, while Jameer scored just 7 pts on 3 of 10 shooting and 4 TOs. TAriza added 9 pts, while Darko struggled with 4 pts, 4 TOs and 5 fouls in just 13 minutes. For DEN, J.R. Smith scored 17 pts in addition to Anthony's 34.

The Magic (34 of 68, 50%) outscored DEN (32 of 75, 42.7%) from the field 78-68. The Magic shot a sizzling 10 of 16 from 3 pt range, compared to just 4 of 16 for DEN. DEN (31 of 43, 72.1%) had the slight edge at the FT line (ORL 30 of 40, 75%). ORL won the rebounding battle 43-36. The Magic had a very poor assist/turnover ratio at 16-26, while DEN had a ratio of 17-19. The Magic bench was huge, outscoring the DEN bench 57-18.

The strong Magic depth continues to be such an asset. Outstanding shooting and pretty good defense by the Magic in holding DEN to 7 pts under their season average were enough to overcome all the TOs. Magic now lead ATL by 1 game in the SE and have 3 days before hosting CHA.

First-place Magic host Carmelo, Nuggets

The first-place Orlando Magic (doesn't that sound good!), at 5-3, will play host to the 3-3 Denver Nuggets, who are coming off a 112-105 win over the Heat last night. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 33 pts. Andre Miller added 29 pts 10 assists.

Carmelo averages 30 ppg for DEN, followed by Miller (16.7 ppg 9.5 assists), J.R. Smith (13.2 ppg), Earl Boykins (11.5 ppg), and Marcus Camby (11.2 ppg, 10.8 rebounds). Kenyon Martin is recovering from knee surgery and is out for several more weeks. Forward Nene has a bruised knee and is questionable for tonight's game. JNelson leads the Magic in scoring now at 16.4 ppg. DHoward is averaging 12.9 rebounds. DEN is averaging 106.5 ppg, and is allowing 104.0 ppg. The Magic is averaging 96.5 ppg, while allowing 95.5 ppg.

The Nuggets are looking for their 4th win in a row after starting the season 0-3. All 3 wins have come on this 4 game road trip, which DEN closes out tonight. However, the Magic have not lost at home to DEN since March of 1992, and have beaten them 13 straight times at TDW. The Magic are looking for their 3rd win in a row, and 5 out of 6 overall. Magic are 3 1/2 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Magic hang on to beat Celtics

After leading the whole game but falling behind late in the fourth quarter, the Magic kept their composure and took the lead back and held on for a 92-89 victory. The Magic have now won 4 out of 5 and are at 5-3, while BOS is at 1-6.

JNelson continiues his improving play, as he led the Magic with 24 pts, 7 assists and 5 rebounds. GHill added 18 pts, DHoward 17 pts 15 rebs, and TAriza led the reserves with 10 pts. The big two for BOS, Paul Pierce and Wally Szczerbiak, scored 21 and 14 pts respectively, but combined to shoot just 11 of 31.

The Magic shot well again (38 of 71, 53.5%), outscoring BOS (31 of 81, 38.3%) from the field 76-69. However, the Magic was 0 for 8 on 3 pt FGs, while BOS was 7 of 14. BOS (20 of 28, 71.4%) had the edge at the FT line (ORL 16 of 25, 64%). The Magic outrebounded BOS 43-34. BOS had the better assist/turnover ratio of 22-11, compared to 17-15 for the Magic. At least the Magic have had two straight games of under 20 TOs. The Magic bench edged the BOS bench 26-25. Darko did well with 8 pts 4 rebs and 3 blocks in just 19 minutes.

The Magic are now 3-1 in games decided by 5 pts or less, compared to 10-14 all last season. The fact they can go on the road and win a close game after falling behind in the last few minutes is a very encouraging sign. The fact the Magic are 5-3 despite difficulties at times and less than perfect coaching at times is also encouraging. The Magic now have a stretch of 4 of 6 games at home, before embarking on a difficult 6 game road trip.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Magic try for second in a row on road at BOS

The Magic, at 4-3 and trying for their fourth win in five games, face the 1-5 Celtics, coached by former Magic coach Doc Rivers. BOS is coming off an embarrassing collapse to CLE Saturday night, losing 94-93, where BOS somehow blew a 25 pt third quarter lead and 19 pt 4th quarter lead.

BOS is led in scoring by Paul Pierce (26.3 ppg, 11.7 rebs) and Wally Szczerbiak (24.2 ppg on 48.8 FG shooting). Szczerbiak missed the CLE game with a strained lower back. Rivers has used five different starting lineups in six games so far. Al Jefferson (11.3 ppg) and Sebastian Telfair (10.0 ppg) also average in double figures. BOS averages 99.2 ppg and allows 104.2 ppg. ORL averages 97.1 ppg and allows 96.4 ppg. Expect GHill back in the starting lineup for the Magic.

The Magic need to continue all the good things they did against MIN (good assist/TO ratio, good FT shooting, good FG shooting, strong rebounding, strong bench play). DHoward, JNelson, and Darko need to build on the strong games each had against MIN. Hopefully BHill will make good use of the deep Magic bench. BOS has beaten the Magic nine of the last 10 games in BOS, and will be eager to atone for what happened against CLE so the Magic better be prepared and ready to play.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Howard's huge game leads Magic over MIN

Dwight Howard looked like he did against CHI on opening night, as he dominated the T-Wolves with 21 pts and 22 rebounds (and 0 TOs) in the Magic's 109-98 victory, their first road win of the season. ORL is now 4-3, MIN 2-4.

GHill was deactivated as a precautionary measure, but the other players stepped up. Five other Magic players (besides Dwight) scored in double figures, including 4 players off the bench. JNelson led the Magic with 23 pts on 8 of 13 shooting. Darko led the reserves with a season-best 15 pts, followed by PGarrity with 11 pts, and KDooling and TAriza with 10 pts apiece. KG led MIN with 28 pts 11 rebs, and Ricky Davis added 16 pts.

The Magic (41 of 82; 50%) outscored MIN (31 of 70; 44.3%) 85-65 from the floor, though the Magic shot just 3 of 11 from 3 pt range. MIN (33-37; 89.2%) had the edge at the FT line over the Magic (24 of 32; 75%), though the Magic shot FTs much better than they have been. ORL dominated the boards 46-28, and had their best assist/turnover ratio of the year at 21-11. MIN had a similar ratio of 20-11. The Magic bench came up huge, outscoring the MIN bench 52-23.

Nice to see BHill make much better use of the bench than he did against the Pacers. Darko was given 24 minutes of playing time and did very well, posing match-up problems for MIN. Even Garrity scored in double figures. Only 3 TOs by the starting five... and what a dominating performance by Dwight! Keith Bogans (5 pts 3 assists 2 rebs) was steady in replacing Grant in the lineup. A very encouraging win after a very discouraging loss the previous night.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Magic to try to slow Garnett tonight at MIN

The Magic, at 3-3, travel to MIN, 2-3, tonight and try for their first road win in 3 games. The T-Wolves are coming off a 95-88 loss to the Lakers in LA, and have lost 3 games in a row after a 2-0 start.

MIN is led, of course, by Kevin Garnett, averaging 22.4 ppg and 11.2 rebs. Newly signed G Mike James is averaging 15.2 ppg, and Ricky Davis is averaging 11.2 ppg. Former Magic G Troy Hudson is averaging 6 pts off the bench. Garnett has 14 consecutive double-doubles against the Magic. The Magic may sit out Grant Hill as a precaution, even though last week Otis Smith and Brian Hill said there are no plans to sit him out in the second of back-to-back games this early in the season.

BHIll will have to use the reserves much more than he did against IND. Keith Bogans and Keyon Dooling will have to come through if Grant sits out.. MIN hasn't played since Tuesday and will be rested and ready. T-Wolves are 4 1/2 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Lackluster second half hurts Magic in loss to IND

The Magic, after scoring 32 pts in the first quarter, could only put up 51 the remaining three quarters in falling to the Pacers 93-83. Again, turnovers and poor FT shooting hurt the Magic.

AL Harrington had his best game of the season, leading IND with 32 pts. Danny Granger added 18 pts. Harrington and Granger combined to shoot 20 of 31 from the field. JNelson had his best all-around game for the Magic with 19 pts, 6 assists, and 2 TOs. GHill and DHoward added 17 apiece, but Dwight had an alarming 8 TOs. HTurkoglu had 12 pts, but only 2 after the first quarter. CArroyo led the reserves with 7 pts, and Darko added 5 pts.

The Magic (32 of 73; 43.8%) outscored IND (31 of 79; 39.2%) from the field 67-66. Magic were 3 of 5 from 3 pt range. IND had the solid edge at the FT line (IND 27 of 32, 84.4%; ORL 16 of 28, 57.1%). IND had a solid edge rebounding 45-34. IND had 20 assists to 16 TOs, while the Magic struggled with 15 assists and 20 TOs. The Magic reserves were outscored by the Pacer reserves 20-15.

This is the third game in the last four where the Magic have been held to the 80s. Magic have got to score way more than that to be successful. BHill chose not to give the reserves much playing time and not take advantage of the strong depth as every starter played at least 32 minutes (Battie 3 pts in 32 minutes). Magic had no answer for Harrington. After a promising start, a disappointing loss... on to MIN Saturday night.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Magic begin tough road stretch at IND FRI night

The Magic, at 3-2, begin an 11 out of 15 stretch on the road against the Pacers, who are 3-2 also, but coming off a 117-91 defeat by WAS. Al Harrington led the Pacers with 23 pts. Jermaine O'Neal did not play in that game, but is expected to play tonight against the Magic.

IND is lead in scoring by O'Neal, at 19.2 ppg. Newly signed free agent Harrington averages 16.5 ppg. Sarunas Jasikevicius averages 11.5 ppg, with Stephen Jackson at 11.4 ppg. Reserves of note include Danny Granger at 9.4 ppg, and former Magic G Darrell Armstrong with 9.0 ppg on superb 59.3% FG shooting, including 58.8% on 3 pt FG. GHIll leads the Magic with 16.0 ppg, followed by CArroyo at 15.5 ppg. Through 5 games, IND is averaging 98.8 ppg and allowing 99.4 ppg. ORL is averaging 97.6 ppg and allowing 96.8 ppg.

The Magic must cut down on their 21.4 turnovers per game if they are to have long-term success. They also must produce victories on the road to prove that they are for real. Even though Magic have had their struggles in many areas, they are still 3-2, but with lots of room for improvement. Dwight must pick up his offensive game, and Jameer needs to take better care of the ball, or Carlos will start to see the majority of playing time at PG, as he has shown he deserves it. And yes, we need to see more of Darko paired with Dwight.

Whit Watson on Eastern Conference

Whit Watson has mentioned our blog at the start of his recent post in response to my challenge of writing a more serious piece than his Fantasy Basketball one, and also in response to my critique of his assessment on Chicago's being the team in the east to watch. It is an interesting post especially when Miami of this year is compared to Chicago of 1993. Here is the link:

Sun Sports :: Whit Watson Blog


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Turkoglu saves the day for Magic in last-second win over SEA

After the Magic blew an 86-77 lead with 3 minutes left to trail SEA by 1 pt with 5.7 seconds left, Hedo Turkoglu's 20 footer with less than a second left bailed out the Magic as they edged the Sonics 88-87.

Turkoglu and JNelson led the Magic with 18 pts each. GHill added 12 pts and CArroyo 10 pts 6 assists. DHoward had his third straight quiet offensive game with 8 pts and 5 TOs, but did grab 10 rebounds. Ray Allen with 21 pts (4 of 8 3 pt FG) and Rashard Lewis with 16 led SEA.

The Magic shot very well from the field again (34 of 63; 54%) compared to SEA (32 of 77; 41.6%) and outscored them 74-70. Magic shot 6 of 16 on 3 pointers (37.5%), while SEA was 6 of 15. SEA (17 of 20; 85%) had the edge on the FT line over the Magic (14 of 23; 60.9%). Rebounds were even at 36, even though SEA had 16 offensive boards to just 7 for ORL. Way too many TOs for the Magic again, with 25, compared with 21 assists. SEA also had a poor assist/TO ratio at 14-21. The Magic bench edged the SEA bench 26-24.

Hedo saved what would have been an awful loss for the Magic, not being able to protect a 9 pt lead with 3 minutes left, and turning the ball over 4 times in that span. Magic are now 3-2 as they hit the road for 11 of their next 15 games, but have a number of issues to deal with and improve on.

Magic Week Ahead

It’s too early to get a feel for the either the Magic or the league to look a whole month ahead. So I thought I would try just a weeks worth of predictions.

With 4 games down, the Magic we don’t have a good picture of what the regular rotation will be like; current total minutes break down like this:















Arroyo (3 games)






It’s too early to say that the Magic are giving up on Darko, but he is averaging 19 minutes a game on a team that lacks big men. He needs to play, particularly after the Worlds. Ariza and the energy and defense he brings to the Magic is also clearly missed.

The good news is the Magic are out-rebounding opponents 39.8-31.5 and blocking 5.5 shots per game and shooting a whopping 50.9% from the field. The bad news is they average 20.5 turnovers per game and have an abysmal 0.82 assists/turnover ratio. Because of the turnovers they are averaging 4 fewer shots per game than their opponents and take 2 fewer 3 point shots per game.

Upcoming Schedule:

The Magic play 5 games, 3 on the road with a combined opponent record of 6-12 overall and 2-6 in the buildings where the games will be played. My expectation is 3-2 over the next week, possibly 4-1 with some luck.

8 SEATTLE 7:00: Seattle is 1-3, 0-2 on the road. Split series last year, each team winning at home. Magic favored by 7. Their points come from Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Luke Ridnour & Chris Wilcox. Wilcox is averaging 8 rebounds a game. The Sonics are giving up 7 blocked shots a game and the Magic average 5.5 blocks a game. The Sonics average 22 3 point shots per game, with Allen and Lewis taking 7.5+ each per game. Coach Bob Hill on the top ten list of coaches likely to be fired this year. Seattle giving up 104.8 ppg going into this one.

10 @ Indiana 7:00 3-1, 1-1 at home. Last year Magic were 0-3 vs. Pacers, 0-2 at Indiana. Rick Carlisle is an excellent coach that plays a 9 man rotation with 5 starters averaging around 30 minutes a game. Pacers average 7 blocks a game with Jermaine O’Neal averaging 3.75 bpg. Danny Granger, the guy the Magic should have taken in place of Vasquez is averaging 9.3 ppg, 5 rpg in 29 minutes. It’s possible he could be replaced as a starter by Jeff Foster.

11 @ Minnesota 8:00 currently 2-3, 1-0 at home. Last year Magic split series 1-1, each winning at home. Andrew Bynum just put up 20/14 against the Wolves, DH should be able to do the same. When you look at their stats, it still looks like Kevin Garnett and the 7 dwarves. Coach Casey #1 on the most likely to be fired list.

13 @ Boston 7:30:00 currently 0-3, 0-2 at home. Last year Magic were 3-1, 1-1 at Boston. Doc Rivers, how do you still have a job? Boston seems dedicated to youth and more youth, but two best players are Pierce & Szczerbiak. Rivers playing 10 guys. Boston rebounding well, getting shots blocked 5.0 times a game, and giving up 105 points per game.

15 DENVER 7:00 currently 0-2, 0-1 on road. Last year Magic split series 1-1, each winning at home. George Karl is insane, hates at least half his players at any given time, and is fun to watch. $10 million man Nene averaging 18.5 minutes a game so far. PG Andre Miller averaging 9.5 apg. None of this means much after only 2 games, except that Karl is insane.

Magic try for 2 in a row tonight against Seattle

The 1-3 Seattle Sonics come to TDW tonight to play the 2-2 Magic. Seattle is coming off a 90-87 loss last night to the Heat, with Rashard Lewis scoring 23, and are winless on the road this year in 2 games.

Leading SEA is star guard Ray Allen, averaging 25.5 ppg. Lewis is close behind at 25.3 ppg. Also averaging in double figures is Luke Ridnour (14.8 ppg 6.8 assists), and Chris Wilcox (11.3 ppg 8 rebounds). Earl Watson (9.3 ppg) leads the reserves. Carlos Arroyo is the Magic's leading scorer, at 17.3 ppg, followed by Grant Hill at 17.0 ppg. Through 4 games, SEA is averaging 105.5 ppg and allowing 104.8 ppg. The Magic is averaging 100 ppg, while allowing 99.2.

Magic have won 6 of their last 8 home games against SEA, and this is their last home game before a tough stretch of 11 of 15 games on the road, so they really need a win. Expect a high-scoring game, as both teams like to run. The Magic's superior depth should make the difference. Remember last season's skirmish between Ray Allen and Keyon Dooling in Seattle? Don't expect anything like that tonight. A key for the Magic... can Jameer bounce back after several poor games, and can Carlos keep up his spectacular play? Magic are 7 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Arroyo leads Magic to much-needed win

The Magic, led by another sparkling performance off the bench from Carlos Arroyo, are now 2-2 after beating WAS 106-103.

Arroyo scored 23 pts on 9 of 13 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3 pt range. Just as important, he had 4 assists and 0 turnovers. Four other Magic players scored in double figures: HTurkoglu (18 pts), KDooling (15 pts 6 of 10 FG), TBattie (13 pts 6 of 6 FG), and GHill (10 pts). DHoward added 14 rebounds and 5 blocks, despite scoring just 7 pts. The big three for the Wizards... Arenas, Jamison, and Butler scored 24, 29, and 16 respectively.

The Magic (40-79 50.6%) outscored WAS 89-78 (36 of 79 45.6%) from the field. The Magic shot a sharp 9 of 18 from 3 pt range. WAS (25 of 34 73.5%) had the edge at the FT line (ORL 17 of 24 70.8%). WAS had a slight edge on the boards (38-37). The Magic had their best assist-to- turnover ratio of the year (20-15). WAS was 15-13. The Magic bench was dominant, outscoring the Wizards bench 50-16.

The Magic did many things better this game than the previous two games. Better ball distribution, fewer TOs, good outside shooting, and better FT shooting. Several players also stepped up their play. Arroyo, Dooling, and Bogans combined to score 18 of the 25 Magic 4th quarter pts. Overall, a nice win over a playoff team from the last few seasons.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Magic hope to bounce back against Wizards tonight

The Washington Wizards bring a 1-1 mark into TDW for tonight's game, while the Magic are 1-2 and coming off a clunker against ATL Sunday afternoon.

The Wizards beat BOS in their previous game 124-117, as star G Gilbert Arenas scored 44 pts, after scoring just 7 the first game. WAS has two other players averaging over 20 pts: Antawn Jamison (24.5 ppg) and Caron Butler (21.5 ppg). Antonio Daniels (11.5 ppg) and Etan Thomas (10.5 ppg) also average in double figures. Former Magic G Deshawn Stevenson is averaging 4.5 ppg and 3 rebs.

The Magic have won 8 of their last 9 games against the Wizards in ORL. They must stop Arenas from going off from the field. The Magic have a host of things they have not done well the last two games, and must improve in areas like fewer turnovers, better FT shooting, distributing the ball better, better outside shooting, staying out of foul trouble, and being prepared to play the game. Magic are 3 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Magic fall to 1-2 after ugly loss to ATL

All the happiness and optimism that surrounded the Magic after their opening night win over the Bulls is now gone, at least for a while, after 2 straight losses and this poor outing against the Hawks.

Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 31 pts on 11 of 19 shooting, and ZaZa Pachulia added 17 pts. Carlos Arroyo led the Magic off the bench with 22 pts on 9 of 9 shooting. GHill added 14 pts. DHoward was the only other Magic player in double figures with 11, but committed 5 TOs and played just 24 minutes due to foul trouble.

ATL outscored the Magic by just 1 pt from the field 65-64 (ATL 31-73 42.5%, ORL 31 of 74 41.9%), but had a superior performance from the FT line (ATL 30 of 35 85.7%, ORL 18 of 29 62.1%). Magic also shot poorly on 3's (2 of 11). The Magic tied an all-time franchise low with just 8 assists the whole game. To make matters worse, they turned the ball over 21 times. The Hawks had a much better assist-to-TO ratio of 16-17. Thanks to Arroyo, the Magic bench outscored the Hawks bench 43-28. Darko did respectable, with 9 pts 6 rebs and 3 blocks in 24 minutes.

From the players down to the coach, the Magic were a big disappointment today. They play host to a tough Wizard team Monday night, and need to bring the emotion and intensity like they did against the Bulls to snap this 2 game losing streak.

Magic travel to ATL for first road game Sunday afternoon

The Magic (1-1) play a rare Sunday afternoon game during football season, going to ATL to face the 1-1 Hawks.

ATL is coming off a 102-92 victory against the Knicks Friday night, and was led by Joe Johnson's 30 pts, followed by former Magic C ZaZa Pachulia with 22 pts. Josh Childress added 12 pts off the bench, with former Magic G Ty Lue chipping in with 11 pts also off the bench. SF Josh Smith scored 11. The Hawks do have some athletic players, though not as talented as a whole like the Magic.

The Magic have lost their last 3 games played in ATL, and haven't won there since Nov. 2004. Now would be a great time to break that streak, coming off a disappointing home loss to PHI. Johnson really burned the Magic last season; so they better make sure all his shots are challenged. If not, he'll do the same thing that Kyle Korver and Iverson did to the Magic FRI night. Hopefully, BHIll will do a better job of preparing the Magic for this game.

I expect Dwight to come back and have a big game, as he is originally from the area around Atlanta. Hopefully, Darko will have the chance to play a lot more than he did against Philly. Magic must take better care of the ball and stay out of foul trouble. Carlos will hopefully be ready after sitting out Friday night. Magic are 3 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Iverson's 39 help 76ers edge Magic

The Magic missed an opportunity to build on their big opening-night win over the Bulls, losing to the hot-shooting 76ers 105-103 on Allen Iverson's fallaway runner with just over 2 seconds left.

Iverson and reserve Kyle Korver torched the Magic. Iverson shot 15 of 25 for 39 pts, while Korver shot 10 of 13, including 4 of 4 from 3 pt range for 28 pts. Andre Iguodala and Chris Webber added 11. Six players scored in double figures for the Magic, led by GHill (25 pts). HTurkoglu added 15, and DHoward and JNelson had 14 apiece.

Philly's hot shooting made the difference in this game, as they shot 37 of 66 (56.1%), including a sizzling 8 of 11 from 3 pt range. The Magic shot well also, 39 of 73 (53.4%), but only 2 of 9 from 3 pt range. Both teams shot 23 of 33 from the FT line (69.7%). The Magic had a huge 44-22 edge on rebounds, including 14-3 on the offensive boards. Too many turnovers for the Magic again, with 23, along with 18 assists. PHI had the better assist-to TO ratio 23-15. The Sixer bench, thanks to Korver, outscored the Magic bench 35-29. KDooling with 12 pts and Darko with 11 led the way from the bench. However, Darko played just 14 minutes because he had 5 fouls in that little amount of time.

Give the Sixers credit for hitting the big shots when they needed them. Iverson and Korver were a deadly 1-2 combo. Dwight only attempted 9 FGs in 35 minutes, and he and Jameer combined to shoot just 6 of 14 from the FT line. The Magic need to win games like these, at home especially, against beatable teams.

Magic vs. Sixers

Magic were 3-1 last year vs. Sixers

Jan 26 Away W 119 - 115 OT H. Turkoglu 25 D. Howard 9
Jan 29 Home L 81 - 89 S. Francis 22 points D. Howard 11
Mar 24 Away W 102 - 86 J. Nelson 19, D. Howard 19
Apr 15 Home W 102 - 97 D. Howard 28, D. Howard 26

Wednesday Howard scored 27, last year Howard's game high in points was 28 vs. Sixers during his amazing 28/26 game. He averaged more than 19 points and 16 rebounds per game vs. Philadelphia.

Howard vs. Sixers, 2006

Date Points FGM FGA FG% Rebounds Assists Blocks
26-Jan 22 7 10 0.700 9 1 1
29-Jan 14 6 11 0.545 11 1 3
24-Mar 15 5 10 0.500 19 5 4
15-Apr 28 9 14 0.643 26 1 1
Averages 19.75 6.75 11.25 0.600 16.25 2.00 2.25

Nelson also had some fine games.
Jan 26 DNP
Jan 29 DNP
Mar 24 19 (8-11), 7 assists
Apr 15 21 (10-19), 8 assists

Brokenhearted Knicks Fan seeks new team to love

ESPN.com: Page 2 : I love this breakup!

Lifelong Knicks fan can't take IT anymore. Puts together a formula for picking a new team to root for and came a few points from getting it right. The only reason he didn't pick the Magic is Katrina.

Iverson, Sixers visit Magic tonight

The Magic will try and build on their fantastic opening game against the Bulls, as they face the PHI 76ers, who are also 1-0 after beating ATL 88-75 opening night.

Of course, the 76ers are led by Allen Iverson, who scored 32 pts opening night, but with 7 TOs. PF Chris Webber had a poor offensive game, scoring just 8 pts on 4 of 16 shooting, but pulled down 13 boards. SF Andre Iguodala had 15 pts, and C Samuel Dalembert added 11 pts and 11 rebs. PG Kevin Ollie totaled 6 pts. PHI is not very deep, as Kyle Korver and former Magic first round draft bust Steven Hunter are the only reserves of note.

PHI held ATL to just 33.3% shooting. PHI shot 41.9% from the field, but a superb 23 of 25 (92%) from the FT line.

This is a game the Magic should win, as their superior depth and aggressive, sharp-shooting offense should be more than enough to avoid any possible letdown. Magic are 6 pt favorites (www.pinnaclesports.com).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Great start for Magic in rout of Bulls

The Magic brought out their 'A' game, led by DHoward's 27 pts and 11 rebs, for a surprisingly easy 109-94 triumph over a Bulls team coming off a 42 pt win in Miami the previous night.

Lots of good performances for the Magic in addition to Dwight. JNelson (21 pts on 7 of 8 shooting), GHill (19 pts), and HTurkoglu (11 pts 7 rebs).

The Magic dominated statistically. They outshot the Bulls 59.3% (35 of 59 including 6 of 8 3 pt FG) to 45.1% (37 of 82). Even though the Magic was outscored from the field 80-76 by CHI, the Magic had a huge edge in FTs (ORL 33-42 78.6%; CHI 14-24 58.3%). Magic had a solid edge on the boards 36-27. Magic had 21 assists, but only negative was 23 TOs to 15 for CHI. Magic also had a decisive edge on fast break pts and pts in the paint. The Bulls bench outscored the Magic bench 38-27. CArroyo and Darko led the reserves with 7 pts each.

The Magic totally frustrated the Bulls, as they could not get out on the break against the Magic like they did against the Heat. The Magic showed what a talented, athletic team they have. Nice job by the offense running the break when they had the opportunity. Great job by the Magic D forcing the Bulls to take jump shots. Dwight was a monster on both ends. A healthy Grant Hill makes the Magic that much better. Can you believe that PGarrity didn't play a single minute? And dare I say it... good job coaching by BHill during the game and preparing the Magic for this game.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Magic face formidable opening-night challenge vs Bulls

The day we've been waiting for since the schedule was announced on August 1st is finally here! The Magic open the 2006-07 season against the Bulls tonight at TDW (or whatever they're going to rename it).

The Bulls are coming into Orlando on a high after going into Miami and absolutely crushing the defending champions 108-66. All 12 players for the Bulls scored, led by Kirk Hinrich's 26 pts and Chris Duhon off the bench with 20. The Bulls are very deep, as their reserves combined to score 55 pts. The Bulls interior defense is much-improved, and they tended to run out on the break after getting a defensive rebound, and burned the Heat on the fast break.

Many experts gave the Bulls a chance to be a championship contender this season. After watching them obliterate the Heat, you can see why. Granted though, it's only one game, and as we've pointed out on previous posts, the Heat have lots and lots of problems.

The probable Bulls starting lineup: PG Hinrich SG Ben Gordon C Ben Wallace PF P.J. Brown SF Luol Deng. Key reserves: Duhon, Andres Nocioni, Tyrus Thomas, Adrian Griffin, Victor Khryapa.

In what could be a big break for the Magic, Chris Duhon, who shot 7 of 8 against the Heat, re-injured his sore foot, and his status for tonight's game is not known. Also, talented rookie Tyrus Thomas suffered a broken nose in a hard collision, and probably will miss tonight's game. However, Scott Skiles was able to give his regulars rest, as only Hinrich played more than 28 minutes.

Some key questions for tonight's game:

-How much playing time will Darko receive?
-How will the Magic fare offensively against imposing Bulls C Ben Wallace? I know Dwight won't be intimidated, but will he have success?
-If Jameer starts slow, will Hill bench him and give Carlos the majority of the playing time? Carlos is coming off a solid preseason.
-Can the Magic hit their outside shots to spread the Bulls defense, and open things up in the low post for Dwight?

We'll find out the answers to those and many more questions tonight!