LIVE: Bulls looking to make magic in Orlando

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LIVE: Bulls looking to make magic in Orlando

Friday, March 4, 2011
11:25 a.m.
Associated Press

Jason Richardson said earlier this week if the Orlando Magic want to be considered contenders, they had to impress during a three-game stretch against other strong teams from the Eastern Conference.

Through two of those games, they've managed to do just that despite only playing 48 good minutes.

A pair of furious second-half rallies have the Magic's winning streak at four heading into Friday night's visit from the Central Division-leading Chicago Bulls, who hope to put a second-half collapse behind them and avoid their sixth straight loss in Orlando.

The Magic (40-22) cruised past Oklahoma City and Charlotte after dropping their first game following the All-Star break, a loss to Sacramento that caused Dwight Howard to question his team's effort.

That led into a stretch of three games in four nights against New York, Miami and Chicago (41-18) that Orlando knew would be a serious measuring stick.

Richardson said Monday he saw the week as a chance for the Magic to "redeem themselves." That seems fitting given how the first two games have unfolded. Down 11 at halftime to the Knicks on Tuesday, Orlando scored 69 second-half points en route to a 116-110 win, though that comeback paled in comparison to what happened Thursday.

The Heat led 73-49 with nine minutes left in the third, but the Magic didn't pack it in. They ended the game on a 50-23 run - sparked by 17 of Richardson's team-high 24 points - to pull off a 99-96 shocker.

The comeback was the second-largest in franchise history and matched the NBA's second-biggest turnaround of the season.

"To tell you the truth, I didn't even know we were down that much," Orlando guard Jameer Nelson said. "I was just playing. I just think that's what you have to do when you know you can play better and you're not playing up to your potential. Just get it going somehow, not worry about the score."

The Bulls can certainly relate to what the Knicks and Heat went through against Orlando. Chicago led Atlanta 50-33 at halftime Wednesday before falling apart in the final 24 minutes, scoring just 30 points after the break and losing 83-80.

Derrick Rose, who missed 16 of his 21 shots and had six turnovers, accepted the blame.

"I made some careless passes," Rose said. "The game was definitely on me. ... But I guarantee it won't happen again."

Rose hasn't had much shooting success in a pair of home games against the Magic this season. He shot 5 of 13 as Orlando throttled the Bulls 107-78 on Dec. 1, then shot 6 of 21 in the rematch Jan. 28.

He finished with 22 points and 12 assists in that one, though, and Luol Deng scored a team-high 26 to lift Chicago to a 99-90 victory.

Howard had 40 points and 15 rebounds in the loss for the Magic.

The Bulls haven't visited Orlando since March 11, when they were without Deng and Joakim Noah in a 111-82 loss, their fifth straight in central Florida.

While Rose and Howard are clearly two of the league's top players, much of the success for the Bulls and Magic hinges on how Deng and Richardson, respectively, perform. Chicago is 23-5 when Deng scores 19 points or more, while Orlando is 18-5 when Richardson contributes at least 11 points.

Carlos Boozer's 24.6 points per game at Orlando since 2005-06 are his most in any visiting venue, though this is his first trip since joining the Bulls.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks win, Jimmy Butler starts All-Star Game

Here are some of Sunday's top stories in Chicago sports:

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Patrick Kane leads Blackhawks to win in Buffalo homecoming

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Wojnarowski: Bulls-Celtics Jimmy Butler trade talks 'will loom over the entire week'

After surreal offseason, Ben Zobrist comes to Cubs camp in style as World Series MVP

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Simeon beats rival Morgan Park for city championship

Former Northwestern football player Torri Stuckey now focuses on helping others

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

Jimmy Butler: 'Hopefully I’m not going to get traded'

NEW ORLEANS — Every All-Star isn’t created equal, even by the slimmest of margins as the best 24 NBA players take their turn on the midseason stage.

So Jimmy Butler being announced among the first five as an All-Star starter had to represent some form of validation, now that he’s not a novice at the whole experience and he’s able to go through the motions of the hectic weekend without breaking much of a sweat.

But despite being a three-time All-Star and routinely mentioned as one of the game’s top 15 players or even top 10, he can’t shake the trade rumors that have seemed to follow him since this time last season.

As he finished up his All-Star experience at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, clarity was nowhere to be found—although heading to some tropical island for a couple days to actually unwind with clear water and warm air seemed to be the best therapy if he’s stressed by the uncertainty of the next few days.

“What’s Thursday? Oh, trade deadline,” Butler said. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Am I anxious? Come on, man. I don’t worry about it. It don’t bother or scare me none.”

“Hopefully I’m not going to get traded but I don’t know. I don’t control that. Control what I can control, like going on vacation.”

Surely it has to be frustrating for a guy who’s elevated his game yet again, averaging 24.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals for the Bulls in 51 games. But he refuses to let it damper his All-Star spirits, playing with some of the best players in the world and a few guys he calls friends, like DeAndre Jordan and Kevin Durant.

“Not for me,” said Butler of the potential stress. “Not saying I’m untradeable but I don’t think about that. If I’m not in a Bulls uniform, I’ll give you a hug and say goodbye to you.”

Moments after Butler made his statement in the media room, the floodgates opened for the trade market as fellow Olympian DeMarcus Cousins was traded from the Sacramento Kings to the New Orleans Pelicans for what seemed to be mere fodder, pennies on the dollar for the most talented center in the NBA.

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While Cousins is far more of a handful than Butler could be, the trade almost signals a consistent truth that always bears repeating—that short of a select few, anybody can be traded.

Even a franchise altering talent like Cousins, who was traded to the city he was physically in for All-Star weekend, and included in the package of players was a guy who hit him in the groin last week (Buddy Hield), resulting in a Cousins outburst and ejection.

Butler has made his name with the Bulls, although not necessarily on the All-Star stage, a player who values defense and doesn’t have as much flash as some of the game’s shinier players.

With a six-point outing in 20 minutes, Butler was an on-court afterthought despite being a starter for the first time.

“Six? Should’ve gone for eight,” he sarcastically deadpanned.

In a relatively jovial mood through the weekend, Butler joked about the talk surrounding him and tried to brush it off as mere chatter as opposed to the franchise not seeing enough in him to make a firm commitment for the long-term, as the Boston Celtics are always hovering.

League sources expect the Celtics to engage the Bulls in conversations for the next few days, but nobody has a great feel for what either side is truly looking for.

But as Butler insisted, he’s only controlling what he can control, which is making himself a fixture for All-Star games to come as opposed to some of the first-timers who don’t know if they’ll get back here again.

“I think I got two underneath my belt,” Butler said. “I know what they’re feeling the first time, It’s so surreal like maybe I do belong here. That’s how I was thinking. Now it’s how do I get here every year? I think that’s the fun part, that’s the challenge. A lot of those guys have done it 10-plus years, hopefully I’m one.”

The only question seems to be, which uniform will it be in because the crazy season has begun.