The Chicago Bulls went into Amway Center in Orlando to face the Magic in what may very likely end up as a second round preview— except for the not-so-small fact that Dwight Howard was not able to play due to a suspension for picking up his sixteenth technical foul of the regular season late last week.
Despite the loss of Howard, the Magic effectively spread the floor on early Sunday afternoon against the Bulls due to Ryan Anderson stepping in his place and playing an all-around great game. Anderson finished with 28 points on 9-of-18 shooting (4-of-8 from three-point range) and pulled down 10 rebounds. Orlando as a team stepped up and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds. Even Jameer Nelson got in on the act, who salvaged an Orlando possession by snatching two missed shots in the second quarter.
Nelson had an excellent game. Not only was he active on the glass, with five boards in the game, but he reacted quick to loose balls on defense and ended with three steals. The Magic backcourt of Nelson, Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon shot a cumulative 7-of-10 on three-point field goals.
Nelson ended the first half on a half-court bomb which pulled Orlando within one point— 50-49.
But the front-runner for the Most Valuable Player Award had an absolute field day. Derrick Rose was unstoppable without Dwight Howard’s shot-blocking presence in the lane. Rose went 13-of-17 from the field with a couple of jaw-dropping moves thrown into the mix.
Carlos Boozer had three straight turnovers that allowed Orlando to take a three-point lead in the fourth quarter. But D-Rose led his team back from behind, as he has so many times this season before.
The Magic had a chance to send the game into overtime, down 102-99, with 2.0 seconds left in regulation. Jameer Nelson seemed to do just that as he swished in a long three as time expired. But upon review it was confirmed that the ball did not leave his hands in time and the Chicago Bulls were awarded their 60th victory of the season for the first time since the 1997-98.
At the very least, the Magic made a good case for themselves that they would be valiant foes against the top-seeded Bulls in a seven-game series. But Chicago is definitely rolling. It is the first time since Michael Jordan was on the roster that they will end with at least 60 wins.
The Chicago Bulls as a franchise have won sixty games during the regular season five times prior to this season.
All five times, the Bulls went on to win the NBA championship.
Derrick Rose ended with 39 points in the victory on Sunday’s victory in Orlando.