A 1 am UK tip-off (8 pm EST) awaits as the Magic travel to the United Center to wage battle against the Eastern Conference leading Chicago Bulls.
Orlando at Boston
Orlando arrives having lost an over-time game in Boston 111 to 116.
Terrence Ross was a welcome return to the Magic line-up, following missed time due to COVID. The Human Torch dropped 33 points from the bench for Orlando on 11 of 19 field goals. A welcome sight was T-Ross hitting 4 of 8 from downtown and 5 rebounds.
Mr Consistent, Wendell Carter Jr. missed a triple-double with 15 points, 16 rebounds and 7 assists whilst Gary Harris continued his rich run of form with 23 points. Impressive rookie, Franz Wagner also added 14 points against a tough Boston defence.
Chicago at Washington
The Bulls travel back to Chicago having bested Washington on another game-winner from All-Star elect, De-Mar DeRozan. DeRozan continued his impressive form with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.
Support came for DeRozan from star guard, Zach LaVine with 35 points and former Magic crowd favourite, Nikola Vucevic. ‘Vooch’ delivered a typical 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls. A performance all Magic fans can relate to.
Chicago has the best record in the East with 24 wins and 10 losses. The Bulls sport an impressive 12 and 4 home record. Worrying for Orlando, Chicago has won 7 in a row and 8 of the last 10 games.
The Magic are currently 14th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 7 wins and 30 defeats. Orlando is currently in the midst of a 5-game losing streak and have lost 8 from the last 10.
Our Opponents – Chicago Bulls
The Bulls are coached by former Florida Gators legend, Billy Donovan. Long-time Magic fans will remember that Donovan was the coach that never was for the Magic. Having being unveiled at a press-conference, Donovan changed his mind about coaching. This would lead to the Magic hiring Stan Van Gundy and a finals run would follow with Orlando having a style ahead of its time under Stan.
The Bulls have assembled an impressive roster. Zach LaVine is the longest serving ‘big name’ for the Bulls, averaging 26.3 PPG but has finally found help in the form of DeRozan, Vucevic and Lonzo Ball.
DeRozan currently leads the Bulls with 26.8 PPG and has been an inspired signing from the San Antonio Spurs.
Former Magic centre, Nikola Vucevic is averaging 16 PPG to go along with 11.4 boards. Meanwhile, the arrival of Ball solves a problem area for the Bulls. A balanced 13.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 5 APG have made Lonzo Ball a welcome addition to the Bulls roster.
Fans should keep an eye out for recently returned to action, Coby White. Former UNC guard, White, has been on a rampage in his last few games, averaging just over 20 PPG.
According to ESPN, the Bulls will be without the hustle of Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, Marko Simonovic, Alfonzo McKinnie, Tony Bradley and the impressive, Patrick Williams.
Injury Report – Orlando Magic
The list remains long for the Magic heading into our clash tonight.
Chuma Okeke is expected to miss tonight’s game but has cleared COVID protocols.
Cole Anthony remains out with an ankle injury in a blow to the Magic.
Markelle Fultz remains missing due to knee and COVID protocols.
Jalen Suggs is missing due to his thumb fracture from November.
E’Twaun Moore is missing due to knee injury, as is Jonathan Isaac.
BJ Johnson is also out for Orlando.
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Gary’s Final Thoughts
This is a tough ask for the short-handed Magic in Chicago tonight. The over-time disappointment and form of the Bulls would make this a tall-order at the best of times for any team.
The battle between Vucevic and Wendell Carter Jr. will be one to watch and Wendell will be keen to impress with a return to his former stomping ground. Wendell will be supported by returning big, Mo Bamba and hopefully Mo will see an increase in minutes as he returns from COVID.
Franz Wagner will be looking to again have a big night and fans should remember how effective the prodigy was against Giannis and the NBA Champion, Milwaukee Bucks.
Nobody can question the heart of the young Magic team. RJ Hampton has proven that he can be a huge contributor at both ends and our very own, Admiral Schofield will look to continue his all-action approach tonight.
A tough one but stranger things have happened in the NBA. Go Magic!