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Game 8: Bulls 97, Magic 83

7 Jan 2012

Three Stars
1. Luol Deng: 21 points (.591 TS%), 4 rebounds, 5 assists, game-changing defense
2. Derrick Rose: 21 points (.498 TS%), 8 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 1 block
3. Carlos Boozer: 20 points (.503 TS%), 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block

I think we received confirmation Friday night that the Orlando Magic cannot beat the Bulls four times in a playoff series.

It’s possible, I suppose, they could beat Chicago once or twice, if they’re in top form. But the problem with the Magic since their 2009 Finals run is they are not consistently in anything approaching top form.

Dwight Howard, for all his fame, is curiously underrated as a superstar on the court, and on their good nights, six other Orlando players are capable of standout contributions, but none is nearly as consistent as a championship team requires. Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson are too old to count on every night; Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis have always been Jekyll-and-Hyde players; and Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick are improved but not yet fully formed.

With the Bulls in town for the Van Gundy Invitational, Howard (28 points, 15 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks) dominated the first quarter with 14 points before the visitors took control in the second.

Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer led a defensive effort that held Nelson, Anderson, Redick and Davis to a combined 7-of-31 shooting, while Richardson had the quietest 17 points you will ever see this side of Carlos Boozer.

Derrick Rose just ate up Nelson and his fast-fading backup, Chris Duhon, and Boozer had the sort of low-pressure night he enjoys, hitting 4-of-9 shots from 16-23 feet. Even Kyle Korver got into the act with 18 points, because Richardson and Turkoglu can’t guard anyone.

Orlando, like Chicago, is among the best-coached teams in the league, and they can look great when things are clicking. But this was one of those nights that lays bare all their problems — and suggests the Bulls really are among a small class of elite teams this season.

Box Score

Record: 7-1
Next: Saturday 1/7 at Atlanta, 6:00 CT

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