Bulls-Magic Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 01, 2013
While the Chicago Bulls have been on a roller coaster of highs and lows, their latest defeat might have them at their lowest point. The injury-depleted Orlando Magic are in a similar tailspin, but hope to build off their most recent performance. The slumping Bulls will try to get back on track and win their fifth straight in Orlando on Wednesday night when they take on the Magic, losers of six straight. Chicago (16-13) looks to shake off a troubling 91-81 loss to visiting Charlotte on Monday, which ended the Bobcats' 18-game losing streak and dropped the Bulls out of a tie for first place in the Central. After dropping three of their last four by an average of 16.7 points, the Bulls are focused on turning things around in a two-game trip to Florida that also stops at defending champion Miami on Friday. "We're in a funk right now, we've been up and down this season,'' said forward Taj Gibson. "We just have to find our way out of it.'' The Magic (12-19) want to break out of their own funk, having dropped four consecutive home games - including the first two on their current four-game homestand. Orlando, however, has reason for optimism. Despite playing without Jameer Nelson, E'Twaun Moore and Glen Davis due to injury, the short-handed Magic nearly toppled the Heat in a 112-110 overtime loss on Monday. "We talk about character and how you will be challenged with a little adversity and how you respond," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "I'm proud of how we responded.'' Nikola Vucevic responded with a franchise-record 29 rebounds and a career-high 20 points on Monday after totaling 29 rebounds in his previous three contests. The center also played well in his last meeting with the Bulls, finishing with 16 points and 10 boards in a 99-93 loss in Chicago on Nov. 6. "We almost beat the Miami Heat without some of our really important players,'' Vucevic said. "If we play hard like we did, we have a chance against anybody in this league.'' While Nelson (hip) and Moore (elbow) are considered game-time decisions, Davis is out at least four weeks with a shoulder sprain. The Magic have especially struggled without Nelson, losing eight of nine without their starting point guard. Orlando has failed to reach 100 points in regulation in each of its last seven games, but could find some open looks against a defense that drew the ire of coach Tom Thibodeau on Monday. The Bulls have allowed opponents to shoot 51.1 percent while being outrebounded by a 142-111 margin in their last three defeats. "Some nights you're going to shoot better than others,'' Thibodeau said. "But the defense and rebounding is not where it needs to be.'' Carlos Boozer, though, looks for his third straight double-double in Orlando, averaging 22.0 points and 13.0 rebounds in his last two trips there. Luol Deng, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds on Monday, could be a factor after going for 20 and nine, respectively, in the first meeting with the Magic. Chicago has averaged just 85.0 points in its last four games, but could fare better against an Orlando team that has given up 109.3 per game in its past four. Kirk Hinrich is considered day-to-day after missing Monday's game due to "a compilation of things,'' according to Thibodeau. The Bulls have won six of seven against the Magic.
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