Kudos to commentor csharp3410:
The Bulls did just that. They single covered Howard pretty much all night, and Howard went off. The times where Boozer had to defend him may as well have just been a lay up line for Howard. Yet, the Magic didn't go to Howard nearly enough despite his season high 40 points on only 28 offensive possessions.
Derrick Rose has transformed into a superstar
Yes, his shooting percentage was sub 30% this game, but Rose has found ways to make a huge positive impact even when shooting terribly. First, he's started getting to the free throw line a ton.
Next, his passing vision has improved immensely as he's generating much better and cleaner looks for his teammates.
Finally, the attention the defense regularly gives him is among the most you'll ever see a team give to anyone. The double team typically starts 5 feet beyond the three point line now, but Rose's ball handling has also improved enough to dribble through the traps regularly and avoid turnovers.
Rose has also picked up his defense and become an impact defender for the Bulls rather than a sieve.
Luol Deng needs a game ball
We've complained about Deng coming up small in big spots before, and I noted in my pre-game comments that we needed Deng to step up in this game. Mission accomplished.
After a very lack luster first half for Deng, he came out and just destroyed the Magic in the second half. Hedo Turkoglu will have nightmares about Luol Deng for the next week.
He destroyed Hedo on both ends of the court, and his offense lifted the Bulls to victory. Deng drilled a couple threes and hti some long range twos, got to the foul line, completed his drives and was a one man wrecking crew in the second half offensively.
Defensively, he forced Turkoglu into a 2 for 12 night and with Jameer Nelson leaving the game in the first quarter, the Magic needed Turkoglu to step up as their initiator.
Dwight Howard won the battle of the superstars, but the Bulls won the game largely because of Luol Deng.
Carlos Boozer did his part
He started off 1 for 5 on offense, but he was 7 for 12 the rest of the night, and he did a nice job of positioning himself to break the Derrick Rose traps. Rose found Boozer repeatedly on passes to the middle of the court when trapped five feet behind the free throw line and Boozer did a nice job cutting to the basket or passing to the open man.
Boozer as well have not existed when defending Howard. He tried to stay in front of him, but Howard had too much size, strength, and speed. However, he wasn't matched up on Howard all that much, and Brandon Bass simply doesn't have the skills to take advantage of Boozer on the other end. The Magic really exploited Boozer last game with Rashard Lewis's shooting range, but Bass couldn't do the same thing.
Boozer also did a nice job keeping the Bulls alive in the second quarter while Rose sat, and the Bulls used him as the key offensive player with Watson feeding him the ball.
The rotation the Bulls have settled into of leaving Boozer out there for the majority of the time Rose sits has given the Bulls much more offensive push in that second unit.
Keith Bogans' streak lives on
Bogans scores six or more? Bulls win.
He knocked down two threes early in the game which helped keep Orlando from breaking it open early at a point where Rose and Boozer had thusfar combined for 2/12 from the field.
I jested early that the game was in the bag once Bogans scored six the game was in the bag, it turns out the Bogans indicator was correct again.
Nice job by Keith of chipping in early, his confidence is building as his first three was one where he had relatively little room and shot immediately without the hesitation he had earlier.
Kurt Thomas did a nice job of chewing up minutes
His stats were terrible as was his plus minus. He lost his cool with Howard on the court as well and was visibly disturbed. He didn't get much benefit of the doubt when Howard just threw him around either.
However, with all that said, you need someone to go toe to toe with Howard when he's on the floor, and even if Howard is mauling you, you need to play physically enough to stop him from mauling you ever single possession.
Thomas did that, making Howard work for his shots and annoying him some with physicality.
Ronnie Brewer / Korver / Watson did their things
Brewer gave the Bulls some disruptive defense, found ways to knock down shots and brought energy while he was on the court, while Korver knocked down a couple of threes even if he only shot 2/7 from the field. Watson was 0-5 from the field, but played pressure defense and moved the ball well while on the court.
Taj played well, but Howard limited his minutes
The Bulls needed more Taj Gibson out there, but they could only play him while Boozer was on the bench, or they had to put Boozer/Gibson on Howard. The Bulls didn't want to do either of those things, and who could blame them?
With the Magic struggling to get any perimeter penetration and having no offensive threat at PF, the Bulls elected to go with Boozer's offense more than Gibson's defense for the majority of the game.
However, Gibson played really well while in the game bringing a lot of energy, pushing the pace of the Bulls offense.
Omer Asik gave the Bulls some great defense
Without Noah, and Thomas limited due to foul trouble, the Bulls desperately needed Omer to step up and give the Bulls some type of presence on Howard. He started his run by getting an incredibly cheap off the ball foul, quickly picked up another foul after getting thrown around by Howard.
His minutes were limited, and he drew five fouls in 17 minutes, but he did a great job of bothering Howard, and the Bulls basically won the game during the stretch he anchored the defense in the third period.
I said the Bulls would find out what they were made of over the next 20 games, and they started that stretch off with a win against the Magic, one of their personal demon teams.
The Bulls now need to head off on the road where they've struggled against even mediocre teams, and watching them beat Boston, Miami, Dallas, and Orlando at home, you start to think that homecourt is going to be awfully important for the team in the playoffs.
The Bulls are presently tied for the third best record in the league and the second best in the Eastern conference as Tom Thibodeau has to be the front runner for coach of the year at this point.