Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic, Amway Center, Orlando, FL
Sunday, April 10, 2011, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: Bulls -3
Current Line: Bulls -4.5
Opening Total: 185
Current Total: 183
Money Line: Click here for latest NBA lines
The Chicago Bulls (59-20) clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 93-82 victory at Cleveland on Friday and will go for their seventh win and third cover in a row when they visit the Orlando Magic (50-29) on Sunday. The Bulls (-4.5) are still trying to catch San Antonio for the best record in the NBA though, and the fourth-seeded Magic could face them in the second round of the playoffs if both teams advance.
Orlando certainly had Chicago’s number before 2011 began, winning three consecutive meetings straight-up and against the spread by an average margin of 26 points per game. The Magic had used All-Star center Dwight Howard in the past to intimidate MVP candidate Derrick Rose, preventing him from doing what he does best by penetrating the lane.
However, Rose finally figured out how to turn the tables on Howard in the last two meetings, leading the Bulls to a pair of wins by a combined 17 points. One could argue that reversal of fortunes is the primary reason Rose will likely win the MVP award over Howard. Chicago’s third-year point guard has not been ruffled by the same opponent more than once this season and does whatever it takes to win, whether it involves his scoring or passing abilities.
The Bulls overcame Howard’s 40 points and 15 rebounds in a 99-90 home win over Orlando on January 28, as Rose scored 22 points and dished out a game-high 12 assists. In the next game between the teams on March 4, Rose had 24 points and four assists in leading his team to a 89-81 road victory while Howard totaled 20 points and 10 boards but picked up his league-high 16th technical foul and was suspended the next game.
Ironically, Howard was called for his 18th technical on Wednesday in a 111-102 overtime win at Charlotte on Wednesday and will sit out this game against Chicago. Reserve swingman Quentin Richardson (4.3 points per game) will also miss this matchup due to a two-game suspension for shoving Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson in the face.
The Magic are set to face Atlanta in the first round of the postseason after winning eight of their last 11 games, although they have not fared well against the spread during that stretch. They are just 2-9 vs. the line over that span – all as favorites – and will be home underdogs for the first time since losing to the Los Angeles Lakers (-5.5) back on March 14, 97-84.
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