In their last two games, the surging Orlando Magic posted wins against one of the league's best teams and one of the worst. Their next opponent is playing more like the latter. The Magic look to win their season-high seventh straight game Thursday night w
In their last two games, the surging Orlando Magic posted wins against one of the league's best teams and one of the worst. Their next opponent is playing more like the latter. The Magic look to win their season-high seventh straight game Thursday night when they host the slumping Chicago Bulls. The Magic are listed as a heavy 12.5-point favorite at Sportsbook.com.
Orlando (45-20, 32-39-4 ATS) has matched its longest win streak of the season, giving itself a small cushion over Boston for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. It still trails first-place Cleveland by five games. The Magic beat the Lakers on Sunday in an NBA finals rematch and followed that victory with a 113-87 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday.
Orlando led by 26 points at the half and cruised the rest of the way. Dwight Howard, who finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds, did most of his damage in the first half, going into the break with 18 points and 11 rebounds. "I liked the way we approached the game coming off a big win the other night," coach Stan Van Gundy said. "There was no letdown, especially in the second half." The Magic have covered five of their last seven home games.
The Magic have a good chance at extending their winning streak against a Chicago team that has lost five in a row (0-5 ATS). Orlando hasn't won seven straight (4-2 ATS) since Jan. 6-17, 2009.
Improved production from point guard Jameer Nelson has provided a boost for the Magic, winners of five straight at home. Nelson is averaging 12.6 points this season, but 16.4 in the last 10 games. He had 17 points and eight assists Tuesday, shooting 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Nelson and the Magic will try to take advantage of the Bulls' defensive struggles. Chicago equaled its longest losing streak of the season Tuesday with its fifth straight defeat, 132-108 to Utah. It was the most points the team has allowed this season.
The Bulls (31-32, 30-31-2 ATS) are giving up 115.0 points per game during the skid and their last two opponents have averaged 127.0 points and shot 55.3 percent. All of those losses came without defensive presence Joakim Noah, who is out with plantar fasciitis. Chicago is 5-10 ATS after allowing 100 or more points, including failing to cover last five in a row.
Howard will look again to dominate inside with Noah sidelined. He had 18 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes of a 107-87 win Feb. 10 with Noah out. In the previous matchup with Noah in the lineup, Howard was held to nine points and 12 rebounds in a 101-93 loss Jan. 2.
Thursday continues a difficult stretch for Chicago, which in a tight battle with five teams for the final four playoff spots in the East. The Bulls play their next four on the road and their next five opponents are all playoff contenders. "It's the NBA, you can always change things around," said Derrick Rose, who had 25 points and 13 assists Wednesday. "Now we go on the road for two big games. We need them." The Bulls are 19-14 and 15-15-3 ATS on the road and have covered five of last six against teams with winning home records.
It won't help, however, if the Bulls don't have Luol Deng, who sat out the fourth quarter with a strained right calf. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI before Thursday's game. Deng is second on Chicago, averaging 18.0 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Sportsbook.com has Orlando as decided favorites, however they have been unsafe bet on Thursday's of late, failing to cover four in a row and are merely 2-7-1 ATS off a win by double digits. Chicago on the other hand is 6-2-1 ATS after a butt-whuppin' of 10 or more points at home and is 9-4 UNDER facing teams with winning records.
The Bulls, who haven't lost six straight since Nov. 14-24, 2006, have lost four in a row (1-3 ATS) in Orlando by an average of 19.3 points. This TNT matchup starts at 8:00 Eastern and the last five meeting have played UNDER east of Disney World.
The StatFox Power Line shows Orlando by 16 , indicating oddsmakers at Sportsbook.com might not have given the Magic enough credit.
Click here to read latest NBA news