Two of the top teams in the Eastern Conference will battle on Friday night on Chicago’s west side. Derrick Rose will lead the Chicago Bulls against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
The Bulls are hoping a three-day break will help Rose recover from stomach ulcers and an aching back while leading to a better shooting performance in their next game.
The Bulls got three days off at the end of November, but it did little to help them against the Orlando Magic.
While Chicago will attempt to avenge its most lopsided defeat this season, Orlando will try to add to its recent dominance of the Bulls as it returns to the United Center on Friday night.
Chicago (31-14) won its third straight Monday night, 92-83 over Milwaukee, despite Rose shooting 5 of 16. He’s averaged 23.7 points during the win steak but is shooting 34.4 percent (22 for 64).
Rose hopes to face the Magic even though the ulcers have led to his energy being “kind of low.”
Kurt Thomas scored 22 points – his best scoring performance in nearly six years – while Carlos Boozer was the only other player in double figures Monday with 14. The Bulls shot 39.5 percent but prevailed by outscoring the Bucks 22-8 at the foul line.
They’ve shot 39.2 percent during a 3-1 start to their season-high, six-game homestand, but will get some much-needed time off after playing 13 times in 21 days.
“We’ve played a lot of games over the last three weeks,” Thomas said. “I definitely believe we’ll benefit from the three-day rest.”
Three days off, however, didn’t help Chicago before it welcomed Orlando on Dec. 1. The Magic routed the Bulls 107-78 in Boozer’s debut without a strong performance from star center Dwight Howard.
Howard finished with 13 points – nine below his season average – and 12 rebounds in that win. The Magic posted a 44-21 advantage on the glass and a 46-26 scoring edge in the paint.
Jameer Nelson had a season-high 24 points, while Rose missed eight of 13 shots and finished with 15. After missing the first 15 games with a broken right hand, Boozer had five points and two rebounds in 22 minutes.
Howard has averaged 14.3 points and 10.7 rebounds – two below his career mark – in the past three games against the Bulls. The Magic, though, have won those matchups by an average of 26.0 points.
Orlando has outshot Chicago 50.0 percent to 39.4 and held an average rebounding margin of 47.0-30.3.
The Bulls beat the Magic 101-93 at home last January as Rose scored 30 points, but he had seven in a 107-79 drubbing on the road on March 11, 2009. The All-Star guard’s 13.1-point average against the Magic is his lowest versus one opponent.
Orlando (30-16) enters this game searching for a season high-tying third straight road win and its fifth in the last six overall. Behind one of their best 3-point shooting performances of the season, the Magic bounced back from a home defeat to Detroit on Monday night for a 111-96 victory at Indiana on Wednesday.
Orlando was 16 of 34 from beyond the arc, with Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson accounting for four 3-pointers apiece. Richardson and Howard each finished with 19 points, leading six players in double figures.
“It’s pick your poison with us,” Anderson told the team’s website. “If Dwight has it going inside, it’s hard to get out on all of the shooters that we can put out on the floor.”
Anderson was out of the rotation earlier this season and missed nine games with a sprained right foot. Since returning Dec. 23, he’s averaged 24.6 minutes, 13.6 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range.
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