Game Notes: Magic at Bulls
The science of chemistry.
by Bryan Crawford / @_BryanCrawford
At every Chicago Bulls home game I have a routine that I rarely, if ever deviate from.
Usually I’ll stand and watch the introductions of both teams starting lineups from the tunnel on the visitors end of the court before taking my seat. But with Carlos Boozer being introduced for the first time as a starter against the Orlando Magic last night, I decided to watch from the tunnel on the home side where the plan to get Boozer a rousing ovation from the fans at the outset of the introductions turned into a massive fail because apparently, nobody bothered to tell Luol Deng.
In Deng’s defense, his is usually the first name called in the lineup, so out of what must have surely been habit, when he heard the announcer say “From Duke!” he just ran out; only the fans weren’t screaming “Luuuu!”, they were screaming “Booooz!” as the PA guy called Boozer’s name and his face was beng shown on the big board above.
It was an awkward moment for sure but it was a precursor to the Bulls’ play on the floor which was uncharacteristically bad and out of sync in the 107-98 butt kicking they took at the hands of the Magic, and anyone looking for the low-post banging, rebound dominating tandem of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah to manifest itself last night were left sorely disappointed.
While contributing 16 points on the offensive end, for the first time since 2008 Noah had a game where he didn’t grab a single rebound. Boozer, who hasn’t played in an NBA game since May, scored just 5 points and grabbed 2 rebounds in just over 21 minutes of game action. The lack of synergy between himself and his new teammates was clear and not playing competitive basketball in over 6 months leaves its fair share of rust.
“Looking back on it, you feel [rusty],” said Boozer. “I didn’t do too many good things out there, didn’t get a lot of rebounds, didn’t play good defense.” Said Tom Thibodeau, “That was to be expected. It was his first game… We don’t want to make excuses [with a new starter in the lineup]. The way we started the game led to our demise.”
Derrick Rose was a less than spectacular version of his usual self as he scored just 15 points (5-13 from the field) and handed out 4 assists. Like Noah, he also uncharacteristically finished the game with a zero in the rebound column.
On the Bulls obvious lack of chemistry with Boozer in the lineup and the clear hangover of coming home after being on the road for two weeks straight, Rose opined, “I knew [the chemistry] wasn’t going to be pretty or anything, but when we get our connection going, I think we’ll be alright. The first game back from a road trip is usually kind of hard. We’ve just got to fight it and not put our head down.”
The Orlando Magic on the other hand were clicking and ran like a well oiled machine.
The best team in Florida completely dominated the Bulls in every phase of the game even without two of their key reserves. JJ Redick was out sick with the flu and didn’t accompany the team to the arena, and Mickael Pietrus would leave the game — after only 11 minutes of play – due to illness as well.
Jameer Nelson shredded the Bulls defense to the tune of 24 points (8-11 from the field) and 9 assists. He was perfect on his three-point attempts (3-3) and perfect at the free throw line (5-5). Dwight Howard (who picked Cleveland to win when asked after the game about the upcoming Cavs/Heat showdown) had a “quiet” night with 13 points and 12 rebounds while Vince Carter chipped in 22 points and 6 rebounds and Brandon Bass contributed 17 points off the bench.
The Magic outrebounded the Bulls — who came in as the top ranked rebounding team in the NBA — 44 to 21, and converted 23 of 24 attempts at the free throw line. But even more surprising was Orlando’s large margin of victory (29 points) without scoring a single fast break point. That’s half-court execution at its finest.
“I thought it was great game. It was our best win of the year,” Head Coach Stan Van Gundy would say after the game. “You look at what this Bulls team has done even in their losses to Boston, San Antonio, the Lakers and then by one to Denver. For us to come in here after a back-to-back and play like this was great… It makes us look very good.”
But in spite of a dominant show of offensive and defensive execution on the part of his team, Van Gundy half-jokingly acknowledged that Orlando’s performance will go largely overlooked in the eyes of the media.
“I don’t think this game meant anything,” quipped Van Gundy. “How did the Heat do? Is everybody happy there? That’s the only thing that will be on ESPN tomorrow — LeBron back in Cleveland.”
You’ve gotta love Stan. He may not even know what the term means, but he always keeps it one hundred.