Bulls look to recover in Orlando on CSN

Bulls look to recover in Orlando on CSN
January 2, 2013, 4:27 pm
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The Bulls are hoping not to be on the wrong end of a team snapping a long losing streak when they travel to Orlando to take on the Magic tonight. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. followed by Bulls Postgame Live with Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.
Tom Thibodeau's group ended 2012 on a sour note on Monday in a loss to the Bobcats, 91-81, to help Charlotte break an 18-game losing streak that dated back to Nov. 24. During that streak, opponents scored 100 or more points 15 times, yet the Bulls could only muster 81 points on a dreadful 35 percent shooting.
The Bulls' performance should give the Magic, losers of six straight, some added confidence heading into tonight's matchup. That, and the same day the Bulls had their hiccup against Charlotte, Orlando went down to the wire against the defending champion Miami Heat.
Related: Bulls play down to competition in Charlotte loss
The Magic led by as many as 11 points in the second half and seven in the fourth quarter, but LeBron James and company came back to win, 112-110, in overtime. But behind the late collapse was a career performance from center Nikola Vucevic, who went for 20 points and 29 rebounds against the Heat's weak interior.
Considered, more or less, as a throw-in as part of the four-team deal that sent Dwight Howard to Los Angeles and Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, the 22-year-old Vucevic has been a force inside through the season's first two months.
Starting all 31 games, Vucevic is averaging 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds, the latter of which ranks seventh in the NBA. He's also improved since Glen Davis was sidelined with a shoulder injury, averaging 14.5 points 14.3 rebounds over the last six games. He went for 16 points and 10 rebounds in his first meeting with the Bulls on Nov. 6. It will be a tough task for Joakim Noah, if he's able to play -- Noah is still sick and is a game-time decision with flu-like symptoms, as is Vladimir Radmanovic.
Vucevic will be at the forefront of the Bulls' gameplan tonight, along with another newcomer leading the Magic in scoring in 2012-'13.
Related: Orlando's Davis says Bulls will be fine without Rose
Shooting guard Arron Afflalo was also a part of the Magic's deal involving Howard, coming from the overcrowded small forward position in Denver, and has thrived in his increased role in Orlando. Now in his sixth season, Afflalo scored 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting in the Magic's 99-93 loss in Chicago on Nov. 6, and has averaged 21.3 points during Orlando's losing streak.
Not to be forgotten behind Afflalo is sixth man J.J. Redick, who is also enjoying a career year in the wake of the All-Star Howard's departure. He has started just four games but is fourth on the team in minutes per game, averaging 14.4 points, 2.0 3-pointers, 2.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists, all of which are career-highs.
He may be a potential target for the Bulls at the trade deadline, as reported by CSN Bay Area's Ric Bucher. Starter Rip Hamilton has returned to the lineup, and Marco Belinelli was improved in December, but the Bulls could be looking to shore up the position by acquiring another shooter; Redick would certainly fill that role.
Related: Could Bulls be players for Redick at deadline?
Afflalo and Redick have picked up the scoring load with Davis and Jameer Nelson (hip) out, but Nelson will return to the lineup tonight. They're coming off a solid performance against the Heat, and the Bulls are coming off their worst loss in the Tom Thibodeau era, so it could go either way tonight in Orlando. Tune into Comcast SportsNet all evening for your Bulls coverage, beginning at 6 p.m.