Magic-Bulls Preview

The Chicago Bulls may not know who is going to be on the court

on a nightly basis, but they may be in good position to avoid their

first four-game home slide in four seasons Monday night.

The Bulls have won five straight against the Orlando Magic, who

own poor records on the road and in the second half of back-to-back

games.

Chicago (9-13) suffered its worst home loss, 99-77 to Toronto on

Saturday. Luol Deng returned to the lineup after missing the

previous four games because of a sore left Achilles, but Kirk

Hinrich sat out due to back stiffness.

It’s unclear whether Hinrich will play Monday.

Deng scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first half

before making 1 of 9 attempts for two points the rest of the

way.

“The first half, I came out aggressive, I shot the ball great,”

Deng said. “The second half I felt my timing was off.”

Now the Bulls will try to avoid their first four-game slide at

the United Center since losing five straight March 1-19, 2010.

Orlando (7-17) arrives in the Windy City with a 2-11 road

record, a 1-5 mark in the second half of back-to-game games and a

0-3 record on Mondays. The Magic fought valiantly in Sunday’s

101-98 loss at Oklahoma City.

Jacque Vaughn’s club trailed by as many as 16 points before

nearly sending the game to overtime. Glen Davis missed a late

3-point attempt and another by Tobias Harris came just after time

ran out.

”We had our chance to take it to overtime,” leading scorer

Arron Afflalo said. ”It would have been great momentum for us. It

just didn’t happen.”

Afflalo scored 25 points and Nik Vucevic added 13 and 16

rebounds for the Magic, losers of eight of nine overall.

The player Orlando may be most concerned about stopping could be

Carlos Boozer, who averaged 24.7 points and 11.3 rebounds in three

meetings last season. Vucevic averaged 17.3 points and 12.8

rebounds in four matchups to lead the Magic.

Last season’s Chicago team averaged 93.2 points. That figure is

down to 91.6 this season – including 79.0 per contest on 36.4

percent shooting during a woeful five-game stretch in which the

Bulls have lost four.

”I think a lot of it is us having guys in and out,” Deng said.

”We’re not getting as much practice time with guys.”

Teammate Joakim Noah, who has three straight double-doubles,

didn’t quite agree.

”No excuses,” he said. ”I know that we’re capable of a lot

better than that. We can’t get frustrated. Our effort has to be a

lot better to play winning basketball. But it’s going to

come.”

Injuries were a problem for the Magic through most of this

season. Vucevic missed four games with a sprained ankle, Davis sat

out the first 11 after offseason foot surgery, and Jameer Nelson

missed three with a foot injury.

All of those players are back now, and Orlando is hoping better

days lie ahead.

”Overall, our guys really believed from beginning to end that

we were going to win that game (Sunday) and that’s a good start for

us,” Vaughn said.