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.

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Fred Hoiberg wants a more aggressive Bulls defense

Being a better defensive team was a prime objective for Fred Hoiberg coming into camp, as the Bulls hope to reclaim some of their defensive identity that disappeared last season.

Reciting a not-so-true stat routinely to reporters in the first few days, that the Bulls were last in forcing turnovers in 2015-16, means he’s likely barking it to the team in practices (they were actually second-to-last behind the New York Knicks).

“Absolutely,” said Hoiberg when asked if being more aggressive defensively is a goal. “We are turning the ball over way too much. After watching film, our defense is responsible for some of that. We have a guy in (Rajon) Rondo that's a high steals guy, got great hands, great instincts, great wingspan. Jimmy (Butler) is always had great anticipation and one of the top steals guy.”

Butler is one of the best two-way players, along with San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Indiana’s Paul George, but even he admitted his defense slipped last year as the Bulls fell to a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of advanced defensive rankings (15th).

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Rondo was once one of the league’s best defensive point guards before tearing up his knee his last full season in Boston, and averaged two steals last year in Sacramento, but gave up a career-high 107 points per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.com.

Whether Rondo was a function of a bad defense overall for the Kings or a player who no longer fully commits himself to that end remains to be seen, but it’s clear Hoiberg wants a more hands-y defense. Too many times last year, the Bulls defense had leaks from the top down, resulting in compromised drives to the basket and breakdowns all around.

More than anything, the Bulls defense was one of indifference, especially after the first 30 games or so.

“Like all staffs we watched a ton of film and tried to figure out with this group how to create more turnovers, how to impact the ball better,” Hoiberg said. “Every day it's been a big emphasis in our defense and we get out and force turnovers and make sure the help is there behind the trap and being aggressive on the ball.”

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

Denzel Valentine a candidate for minutes at the point for Bulls

The common refrain among coaches in the first days of training camp is “this guy had an incredible summer”, a phrase Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has said so much that even he had to laugh when asked who didn’t have a banner summer period.

Of course, that’s before fans and media get to see anyone play, so we can only speculate who’ll win certain position battles, like the starting power forward spot or how deep Hoiberg’s rotation will go.

So in the spirit of speculation, Bulls rookie Denzel Valentine’s versatility makes him a candidate for the backup point guard position, a spot that is filled with different options for Hoiberg to choose from.

“He’s such an instinctive player. He does a great job,” Hoiberg said. “We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.”

One wonders if Valentine could find himself on the outside looking in at the start of the season, like Bobby Portis did last year before all the injuries hit the Bulls and forced him into action.

It’s a different vision than when Valentine was drafted as a late lottery pick after a seasoned career at Michigan State. The Bulls hadn’t signed Dwyane Wade or Rajon Rondo in free agency, and had traded Derrick Rose 24 hours before the draft, so the thought was Valentine could be an instant contributor.

Even still, Valentine can likely play anything from point guard to small forward, but hasn’t gotten extensive reps at the point, yet.

“I’ve played on the wing so far. A little bit of point,” Valentine said. “I got a couple reps on the point, but like 70-30. Seventy on the wing, 30 on the point.”

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He got an early jump on the Hoiberg terminology at summer league, so the language isn’t a big adjustment, but having to learn multiple positions along with the tendencies of new teammates can mean a steeper learning curve.

“Yeah, I just got to continue learning sets and learning guys’ strengths so that I can use that to their best advantage,” Valentine said. “Play-make as best I can when I’m at the point guard spot. Just learning the system, learning guys’ strengths, and then I’ll be better at it.”

The presence of Wade and Jimmy Butler, one of whom will likely anchor the second unit as Hoiberg will probably stagger minutes so each can have the requisite time and space, means even if Valentine were on the floor, he wouldn’t have to be a natural point guard.

Hoiberg does, however, crave having multiple playmakers who can initiate offense or create shots off penetration or pick and roll action, meaning Valentine can work it to his advantage.

“I think he can. Jimmy played with the ball in his hands a lot last year,” Hoiberg said. “Jimmy rebounds the ball and if Dwyane rebounds the ball, they’re bringing it. Rajon if he’s out there knows to fill one of the lanes. Denzel is an excellent passer. He’s got such good basketball instincts. So if you can get guys out there who can make plays, that’s what it’s all about. I think you’re very difficult to guard in this league when you have multiple ballmakers.”

Other notes:

Dwyane Wade won’t be taking walk-up triples for the Bulls, despite his call that Hoiberg wants him being more comfortable from behind the long line. Hoiberg does want him being willing and able to take corner threes, likely off guard penetration from Rondo or Jimmy Butler.

When Wade played with LeBron James in Miami, cutting from the corners became a staple, so putting him there could be an old wrinkle Hoiberg is adding to his scheme.

Wade took seven of his 44 3-pointers from the corner last season, hitting two from the right side, according to vorped.com.

“When he’s open, especially in the corners, that’s a shot we want him taking. It’s a thing we worked on yesterday, making sure he stays on balance,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got a natural lean on his shot, which has been very effective, being on the elite mid range shooters in our game. That’s allowed him to get shots over bigger defenders. When you get out further from the basket, especially by the line, you need to get momentum going in, work on your body position and work on finishing that shot. He’s got good mechanics, it’s a matter of finishing the shot.”