Magic-Bulls Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 05, 2012
Dwight Howard is gone and two of their starters have already been injured, but the Orlando Magic are off to a perfect start. They'll try to keep it that way when they hit the road for the first time. Orlando goes for its first 3-0 start in three years on Tuesday night when the Chicago Bulls try to avoid their first set of back-to-back home losses since that same season. The Magic have gotten off to a strong start with Howard gone to Los Angeles and new coach Jacque Vaughn on the bench, beating Denver 102-89 on Friday and Phoenix 115-94 on Sunday. But there are already injury concerns, with Hedo Turkoglu out for several weeks after breaking his hand against the Nuggets, and point guard Jameer Nelson again questionable after missing Sunday's game with a strained hamstring and groin. Even with two key veterans hurting, Orlando has played well at both ends. The Magic have 50 assists on their 87 field goals, their bench has 81 points and five players are averaging 12 or more. They're also holding opponents to 40.6 percent shooting. "There's no All-Stars here," said Glen Davis, the team leader with 25.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. "...If we want to go far, we can't go alone." The Bulls (2-1) are missing their biggest star with Derrick Rose out, and fellow All-Star Luol Deng is off to a slow start with 13.3 points per game while playing a team-high 116 minutes. Deng was 6 of 15 Saturday against New Orleans, and Chicago's other four starters shot a combined 8 for 38 in an 89-82 home loss. The Bulls hit 33.0 percent as a team after making 63.8 percent in a 115-86 victory at Cleveland the night before. "Tough day at the office," Joakim Noah told the Bulls' official website after finishing with 11 points and 11 boards. "... They were way more on edge than us. It's unfortunate because it was a good opportunity to go 3-0. But, on to the next one - three games in, 79 more to go." The Bulls are among the NBA's best in scoring defense (87.3 ppg) and field-goal defense (41.2 percent), but another uninspired effort could result in losing two straight at home in the regular season for the first time since a five-game skid March 1-19, 2010. "When you're not shooting well, you can't allow that to sap your energy in terms of getting back, setting your defense," coach Tom Thibodeau said. That's going to be especially important with Orlando getting production from Davis down low and the team hitting 14 of 26 from long range. J.J. Redick is 6 of 8 from beyond the arc with 45 points off the bench. Point guard E'Twaun Moore, who started Sunday and will again Tuesday if Nelson can't go, hit all three of his 3-point attempts against Phoenix. The Magic likely can't fare any worse offensively than they did the last time they saw Chicago. Carlos Boozer had 24 points and 14 rebounds March 19 in an 85-59 road win, the fewest points ever allowed by the Bulls in regular-season play. Orlando won 99-94 in its last game in Chicago on March 8 and has taken three of four at the United Center.
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