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Orlando tries to send message to Howard: Look, we can beat Bulls

Mar 9, 2012, 12:19 AM EDT

Dwight Howard AP

Everything Orlando does for the next 6 days is colored by Dwight Howard trade talk.

That includes their 99-94 win over Chicago Thursday night — the Magic are trying to convince Howard that they can be contenders with him in tow if they just make a couple tweaks. Beating the actual contenders from Chicago and snapping their eight-game win streak — even if the Bulls were without Richard Hamilton (shoulder injury) and playing their fourth game in five nights — can be taken as a sign if you want it. Like finding a burn mark on a pancake that vaguely looks like the Virgin Mary can be a sign if you really are desperate for it to be.

I doubt Howard sees it that way. The fact is this game will have little if any impact on Howard, but it may make the Magic lean even more to the idea that they are not going to move Howard before the deadline.

As for the game itself, these are the kinds of outings that will keep Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau up at night but are really just lockout induced — this was the fourth game in five nights for Chicago, who flew in after beating Milwaukee on Thursday. They looked like a team with tired legs.

Orlando started out hot, putting up 37 points on the Bulls in the first quarter and shooting 67 percent well into the second quarter. The Magic hit 7 of 13 in the first half — it is very difficult for any team to defend them when they are knocking down threes. Orlando finished 11-26 (42.3 percent) from three for the game.

Especially when Howard is playing well. And he was. He overpowered the Bulls inside and had 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting for the game.

But the Bulls chipped away at that lead. They got close to Orlando a few times but struggled to get over the hump — a couple turnovers and a couple threes by Jason Richardson sparked a 13-4 run by the Magic to end the third quarter and keep the Magic up by 8 (79-71).

But in the fourth the Bulls finally got there. A Carlos Boozer elbow jumper gave Chicago a 91-89 lead with 2:50 left. But they couldn’t hold it — The Bulls shot 2-for-10 as a team in the final five minutes with Kyle Korver going 0-5 and Derrick Rose going 0-3. (At one point in the fourth quarter they were 0-8 on shots to tie the game or take the lead.) Chalk that up to tired legs on a tough stretch.

The momentum seemed to turn in the fourth when Jameer Nelson threw an impressive ally-oop to Howard. Next trip down for the Magic Rose defended a Nelson drive well but in a scramble for the loose ball Nelson gets it and kicks to a wide-open Ryan Anderson for three. That was pretty much it.

Jason Richardson had 18 for the Magic, Hedo Turkoglu had 13. Carlos Boozer had 26 for Chicago (and shot 2-of-3 in the final five minutes, the one Bull to hit shots) and Rose had 17.

Orlando can try to convince themselves this means something big if they want. It doesn’t. But if they convince themselves it does it can be more fuel on their fire not to trade Howard. It’s hard to view this game through any other lens.

  1. bleed4philly - Mar 9, 2012 at 12:34 AM

    Lame

  2. goforthanddie - Mar 9, 2012 at 5:23 AM

    Of course ORL can beat the Bulls. The problem is, it takes 4 wins to clinch a series.

  3. gmsingh - Mar 9, 2012 at 6:56 AM

    Kurt, I think you misread the message: they were saying “LeBron sucks”.

  4. davidly - Mar 9, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    Interestingly, the Magic are looking at a number 3 seed right now, with a potential match-up against the Bulls in the conference semis.

  5. mrbiz8505 - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:07 AM

    Live by the 3….die by the 3. Too streaky to win a 7 game series against top teams

    • sabanissatan - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:51 AM

      and the magic just played 3 games in 4 nights… I love the excuses the media gives to the big market giants.. it’s not like every team is going through the same issues with the condensed schedule

  6. raidmagic - Mar 9, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    ” this was the fourth game in five nights for Chicago, who flew in after beating Milwaukee on Thursday. ”

    What about the Magic being on 3 games in 4 nights all on the road?

    • gmsalpha - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:28 AM

      Not to mention, Milwaukee and Chicago are like….a suburb or two removed from one another. What was the flight time? 10 minutes?

  7. Mr. Wright 212 - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:17 AM

    Some flight from Milwaukee to Chicago, that the Bulls are THAT tired.

    Orlando can beat anyone on a given night, but I don’t see them winning a series against anyone — and that includes the Knicks, if they get up to the 6 seed.

  8. dacapt704 - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    This is the SAME ORL team that was up 20 in Charlotte a few nights ago and then LOST by 16!! Long flight my ___ the flight from ORL to CHAR is like an hour…the Magic are 2nd tier at best and thats why Howard is gone!

    • cltjump - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:32 AM

      Less than an hour. You beat me to the just lost to CLT post.

  9. rhetoric1 - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Rose has clearly been on a tear– 6 of 22 tonight, 14-44 over the past two games. MVPlease..

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