“They just drove the ball everywhere they wanted to go,” Hill said.
Hill was happy to be wrong.
The Bulls beat the Heat by 42 points the night before, but couldn’t find their stroke Wednesday. Howard took control, grabbing lobs in the low post on fronting defenders and running the baseline for backdoor dunks.
“Dwight’s going to be one of those guys in this league that are going to make it hard, make it tough for anyone who comes into this building to get a win,” Bulls center Ben Wallace said of the third-year player.
Ben Gordon flashed a dazzling array of reverse layups, drives and fadeaway jumpers on his way to 24 points that kept Chicago in the game—barely. Kirk Hinrich had 14 points and four assists and Luol Deng scored 12 for the Bulls.
“This is obviously a real good way for us to start the season against what I think is an excellent basketball team,” Brian Hill said.
Orlando trailed only once—by a point—in the game’s opening minute. They won despite committing 23 turnovers to Chicago’s 15, outshooting the Bulls 59 percent to 45 percent from the field.
Nelson keyed a 13-2 Magic run in the third quarter with a jumper, layup and 3-pointer, scoring seven points on consecutive trips in 1:17. The spurt gave Orlando an 80-55 lead before Malik Allen turned in a three-point play with 4:31 left in the quarter.
The Magic used a 17-6 second-quarter run over four minutes to take a 63-45 lead at halftime. Six different players scored in the span, including an alley-oop dunk and three-point play from Howard.
“Their length bothered us,” Bulls coach Scott Skiles said. “They got in some passing lanes early. We weren’t able to complete passes, so we just sort of dribbled around and shot the ball.”
Hinrich drew a technical with 1:50 left in third quarter reacting to his fifth foul. He picked it up defending Keyon Dooling’s baseline drive less than a minute after being whistled for his fourth. He played limited minutes in the final quarter but never fouled out.
Grant Hill opened the game with a short speech at center court. “This season we expect to be exciting, we expect to be healthy, we expect to make the playoffs,” he told the crowd. … Bulls Rookie Tyrus Thomas was not with the team after breaking his nose going for a rebound in Tuesday’s opener against Miami. … Before Wednesday the Magic had lost five straight to the Bulls at home, last winning in 2003. … Orlando sold out its first two home games for the first time in nine years. … Magic rookie J.J. Redick was inactive.