Magic-Bulls Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 08, 2012
The Orlando Magic have a difficult upcoming schedule as they prepare to make a decision on superstar center Dwight Howard. That challenging stretch of games begins on the road Thursday night against Derrick Rose and the league-best Chicago Bulls. The next seven days figure to be interesting ones for Orlando, which takes on Chicago (33-8), Indiana, Miami and San Antonio over the next six days. However, the biggest day for Magic fans will be next Thursday's NBA trading deadline when the team decides whether or not to trade the face of the franchise. If the decision is made based on how the team is playing, this key stretch got off to a rough start this week. Orlando (25-15) suffered a 100-84 loss at NBA-worst Charlotte on Tuesday, blowing a 20-point lead en route to a stunning loss. The Magic shot 38.8 percent and had 18 turnovers, scoring 13 points in a decisive fourth quarter. Howard, who had 15 points and 17 rebounds, received little help. Ryan Anderson added 14 points and 11 boards but had just two points in the fourth quarter. He was the only other starter in double figures. "Our guys are satisfied that we came in with the third-best record in the East and the fifth-best record in the league," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "They're satisfied with that. I don't think there's any push to be better or any push to be great. If there is, it doesn't show up in games." Playing down to the level of competition has been an ongoing problem for the Magic. They scored 78 points in a loss at Detroit on January 2 and 67 in a defeat at New Orleans on Jan. 27. Both teams are among the league's worst. Facing the Bulls isn't the ideal way for Van Gundy's club to bounce back from an ugly performance. Orlando has lost four in a row to Chicago, including a 97-83 defeat on Jan. 6. Howard had 28 points and 15 rebounds in that contest, but a late rally by the Magic fell short. The Bulls had three players score 20 points in that game, including Rose, who had 21 along with 10 assists. He's averaged 26.5 points and 7.8 assists the last four meetings with the Magic. The NBA's reigning MVP hit a long jumper at the buzzer to lift Chicago to 106-104 win at Milwaukee on Wednesday for its season-high eighth straight victory. "It was like a kid, all the things that you dream about,'' Rose said. ''It felt good. You're on the road, going against a team that's giving you their all and you hit a nice shot like that.'' Rose finished with 30 points despite shooting 8 of 22. He also had 11 assists and eight rebounds. Joakim Noah led four other Bulls in double figures with 20 points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds. The Bulls played without Richard Hamilton, who suffered a shoulder injury against Indiana on Monday. He is day to day. Rose made sure his absence wasn't felt. He had his second 30-point game in the last three and is averaging 26.3 points and 8.3 assists in six games since the All-Star break. Thursday begins a six-game homestand for the Bulls, who are 15-2 at the United Center. They are giving up 84.6 points per game at home and will try for a better defensive effort after yielding more than 97 for the first time in 10 games Wednesday. Chicago last won nine in a row to close the 2010-11 regular season.
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