The distinguishing characteristic of the Orlando Magic, beyond the fact that they have Dwight Howard, is that they take and make a lot of three-pointers. Going into Monday, the Magic had taken 131 more threes than any other team in the NBA -- they had made 89 more. The distinguishing characteristic of the Chicago Bulls, particularly with Derrick Rose injured and out of the lineup, is that they play defense. The Bulls have been in the top two in defensive efficiency for two straight seasons under coach Tom Thibodeau.
When the Bulls traveled to Orlando to play the Magic on Monday, a key to the game would be Chicago's ability to defend Orlando at the three-point line. When Orlando beat the Bulls 11 days ago (one of only two Chicago losses in their last 14 games), the Magic made 11 of 26 threes.
On Monday, they made four, tying a season-low. With the three-pointers not falling, the Magic were more or less reduced to Howard, who did his part with 18 points and 12 rebounds. But with only one other Orlando player scoring as many as 10, Chicago held them to 59 points for the game, setting an all-time low for a Bulls opponent. Chicago easily won the game 85-59. The win was Thibodeau's 100th as head coach of the Bulls.
Carlos Boozer led all scorers with 24 points on 12-18 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds. Meanwhile, John Lucas came off the Bulls bench to score 20 points in just 21 minutes, shooting 8-13 and making four three-pointers by himself. As a rule of thumb, if a guy on the opposition who is averaging 6 points per game makes as many three-pointers as the entire Magic team, it is not going to end well for Orlando.
The game wasn't particularly competitive or particularly interesting for that matter, but the subplots are pretty intriguing. The Bulls are now 10-4 without Derrick Rose this season. They're even better with him -- 34-6, to be precise -- but 10-4 is awfully darn good too. The .714 winning percentage of 10-4 would represent the fourth best record in the entire NBA this season -- and that's WITHOUT the reigning MVP. So how good is Chicago?
Meanwhile, with Dwight Howard waiving his ETO last week and committing to stay in Orlando another season, every game will be put under the microscope. Howard stuck around to take a crack at winning a championship with the Magic, who have the third best record in the East after all. Getting thrashed by the Bulls is probably not what Howard had in mind when he signed that waiver last Thursday.
The Bulls improve their league-best record to 38-10. They also own the league's best road record at 19-6. The Magic drop to 29-18, 16-8 at home.