Dwight Howard is linked to, well, almost everyone. Even the Bulls are part of the rumor mill in some way, but they had to standby and watch the best Center in the league pull off one of his best games of the season, scoring 29 points and grabbing 18 rebounds as the Orlando Magic beat the Chicago Bulls 99-94.
It was all about erasing the loss against the Bobcats, the worst team in the league. What better way to do that then beating the team with the best record in the league? Orlando led through most of the game, including exploding in the first quarter, leading 37-22. Dwight Howard was in double-double territory by half time, before the Bulls chipped away at the lead.
Chicago are the best rebounding team in the league, but Howard can face off against the best interior players, duos or triplets in the NBA and come out on top. It’s just a matter of effort, will, and fatigue. Unlike other stars in the past, Howard seems fully committed to the Magic despite contemplating playing elsewhere. Maybe it was the All-Star weekend, maybe it was him mom who wants him to play for the Magic, maybe he sees something in this team that others don’t.
Orlando can beat anyone in the league, but they have bad night. Streaky-shooting teams are simply like that. Howard can do only so much on his own, but on some night, everything comes together. Howard manhandles everyone defensively, and the Magic just grind out wins against better teams.
Chicago need to wake Luol Deng up, or maybe it’s good for them that their second all-star player is going through a funk right now. Maybe he’ll shake it off by post season time, although losing in the battle for home court against the Miami Heat isn’t such a good idea. Right now, both teams have nine losses, while the Oklahoma City Thunder have 8.
Chicago struggled from the field, not just Deng. Derrick Rose was awful with his shooting again, not finding a way into the paint, finishing with 6-22 from the field and is a total of 14-44 in his last two games. He finished with 17 points and nine assists, while Carlos Boozer led the team with 26 points. Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic hit 11 times from three point range, including 4-6 by Jason Richardson and 3-8 for Ryan Anderson.
Back to back games hurt you, but Chicago looked more than tired. Even lazy for a big part of the game. They woke up in the fourth quarter, but coming back from way way behind takes too much out of you to hang on to a lead and win. Fighting their way through the entire game does show character and toughness, but they need to make their lives easier.