Bulls, Magic meet amid concerns about offense (Jan 24, 2017)

BY AP • January 23, 2017

The Chicago Bulls and Orlando Magic will be trying to get their offenses untracked when the teams meet Tuesday in Orlando, Fla.

The biggest -- and most controversial -- moment of the Bull' win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday was not a triumph of offensive execution.

With the game tied, Kings power forward DeMarcus Cousins got the ball on the right wing and drove toward the paint, turning his back to the basket to try to bully his way in for a game-winner after already scoring 42 points.

This was a moment for some vintage Dwyane Wade defense. Wade left his man and went to trap Cousins. As Cousins turned back toward the basket, Wade met him and stole the ball. The race was on to the basket to finish the game. Never mind the controversial foul and missed dunk that came later. The Bulls pulled off the 102-99 win over the Kings.

It was the culmination of a strong offensive performance -- the Bulls posted a 107.9 offensive rating despite shooting 41.0 percent from the floor. The Bulls' defense helped produce that impressive offensive statistic.

There was the occasional Jimmy Butler game where he displays his scoring brilliance, but the Bulls' offense has largely been a struggle, especially when the team struggles to defend.

"Too many times we're taking the ball out of the net and not getting into our flow offense, which is where we're at our best," coach Fred Hoiberg told the Chicago Tribune.

The statistics show this struggle too. The Bulls are 19th in the league in offensive rating, scoring 103.8 points per 100 possessions. Chicago has the third-worst field goal percentage in the league, and that is where the defensive factor matters. The Bulls are 12th in the league in defensive rating, but force opponents to commit turnovers on just 13.6 of their possessions, 20th in the league.

The Magic have much the same problem. They are poor on defense and do not force a lot of turnovers -- ranking 23rd in the league. And with a defense ranked in the bottom 10 too, it is no wonder they struggle on the offensive end. The Magic are 29th in the league in offensive rating.

The inability to turn defense into offense has hounded the team but so has the team's difficulties keeping the ball moving.

Without a player like Butler to score seemingly at will and take much of the defense's attention, the Magic must rely on a balanced lineup and assists. The team has dealt with this difficulty all season, and no one expected them to be strong offensively anyway.

Magic coach Frank Vogel said his team must "trust the pass." At times, the team has not done that. Vogel said passing is not instinctual for this team.

"I thought we've really passed the ball well the last couple games," Vogel said. "We haven't shot the ball well. I still think we're still settling for early contested shots, but we've had some great passing possessions or stretches of the game. When you pass the ball like that, you are going to knock down shots. That is why you have to remain confident in that."

The Magic kept pace with the Golden State Warriors in the first half Sunday, but eventually gave way for a 118-98 loss. And the Magic's offense is still 29th in the league in their last 10 games. The offense remains a big issue for the team, a puzzle constantly in need of solving.



share story