Orlando Magic: Why 97-83 Loss to Chicago Bulls Shows They Are Not Yet Elite

Hunter KonsensCorrespondent IIJanuary 7, 2012

Jameer Nelson driving on Derrick Rose
Jameer Nelson driving on Derrick Rose

Going into Friday night’s game against the 6-1 Chicago Bulls, the Orlando Magic knew they would have to come out with energy, efficiency and determination to come away with the win. However, none of those tasks were accomplished, as Chicago had a consistent lead over O-Town the entire game. Sure, Orlando cut it to a few baskets a couple of times, but there was no doubt that Chicago was in complete control.

If there is one takeaway from this difficult loss, it is the sad reality that the Magic have a far way to go from being in the upper echelon of the league.

Despite Dwight Howard, who played a fantastic game posting 25 points and 19 rebounds, Orlando didn’t have much production out of their starting lineup. Jason Richardson had an inefficient night, and Jameer Nelson was an absolute non-factor besides playing horrendous defense on reigning MVP Derrick Rose, who finished with 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

Orlando’s veteran backcourt has been absolutely terrible to start the season. The duo of J-Rich and Mighty Mouse have been liabilities on defense and extremely passive on offense.

Hedo Turkoglu played a decent game with a total of 12 points, but his inconsistency has become a problem that Magic coach Stan Van Gundy needs to solve. One minute, the Turkish point-forward is running the pick-and-roll with precision, lobbing accurate passes to “Superman,” and being extremely aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. The next minute, he is taking every off-balanced floater available, throwing the ball away and playing lethargic, lazy defense.

With the sudden decline of Nelson and the ineffectiveness of backup point guard Chris Duhon, it seems as if Turkoglu is Orlando’s best facilitator. However, if consistency issues keep plaguing the former Phoenix Suns’ forward, it could be a long season for the Orlando Magic.

It has become painfully obvious over the last few games that the success of Orlando’s offense is a direct result of the double-teams that opponents place on center Dwight Howard. When “Superman” becomes swarmed in the paint, Howard will kick it out to one of the many marksmen on the perimeter. This has become Orlando’s main offense. However, when opposing teams have a big man on the roster that can guard D12 one-on-one, Orlando’s whole offense breaks down. Now, the perimeter players have to take their man off the dribble, a skill no player on the Magic roster has seemed to master.

Last night, Chicago placed former Florida Gator Joakim Noah on Howard. Even though Howard was more than capable of scoring on Noah, the Bulls' defensive scheme completely took the four other players on the court for Orlando out of the equation. But, if there was one distinct player that visibly struggled with this changeup in game plan, it was the breakout star Ryan Anderson. Not only was he inefficient from the field, but he started forcing his shots. At the end of regulation, Anderson finished with a measly five points.

Even though not many teams possess a big man who can guard the Dwight Howard one-on-one, Van Gundy definitely needs to find another way for this Magic roster to score the basketball.

If there is one reason, however, that the Orlando Magic are not a championship-caliber team, it is their lack of a contender attitude. They lack a chip on their shoulder, do not play determined and rarely out-hustle their opponents. Friday night’s game is a perfect testament to the aforementioned statement.

Sure, Dwight Howard reviving backup power forward Glen Davis in the third quarter was quite funny, but would other contenders around the league perform that type of an act while losing?

Would reigning champion Dirk Nowitzki be all smiles if his ball club was about to succumb to a conference rival?

Would five-time champion Kobe Bryant put on a show in front of the Los Angeles crowd if the Lakers were down?

Would Michael Jordan, the greatest player of all time, be joking around with a teammate if the Bulls were in the midst of defeat?

The answer to these questions is absolutely not.

Plus, the Orlando Magic gave up a ridiculous 14 offensive rebounds to a team with a small frontcourt of Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah, Omer Asik and Luol Deng. This is horrendous and unacceptable, as second-chance opportunities are a killer in this league. Before the season I didn’t think Orlando needed to acquire another big man to complement Howard, Anderson and Davis. However, I was wrong, as these three definitely need additional help on the boards.

In the end, Orlando is a far way away from truly being a championship contender. I know it, you know it, the fans know it and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy knows it.

"Quite simply, we're not at that level, not close, and that's OK. I'm not saying that crying or complaining; that's just the way it is." said Van Gundy, " You've got to face reality. We've got to put in the work to reach that level because right now we're not close to that level of play."