Friday, February 22 at 7:00 PM ET
Coverage: NBA League Pass
The Orlando Magic will try to pick up where they left off when they host the Chicago Bulls on Friday. The Magic have won five straight and seven of eight while the Bulls are coming off a win against the Grizzlies.
To tank or not to tank?
The Bulls are in a difficult position, in part, because of their early season injuries. Now that the team is healthy with Kris Dunn back practicing after missing a game last week and after the trade for small forward Otto Porter, the Bulls' talent transcends their record.
Porter, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine give the Bulls an effective, all round offensive trio who can match up with many of the top teams in the NBA and although fans want them to tank in order to improve their chances of drafting Zion Williamson, their players just want to compete and keep improving.
Otto Porter scored a career-high 37 points on 16-for-20 shooting and Robin Lopez added a season-high 25 points to lead the Bulls to a convincing 122-110 home win against the Grizzlies on February 13. Lauri Markkanen added 21 points to help the Bulls end a franchise-record 11-game home losing streak with their first win at the United Center since beating the Magic 90-80 on December 21.
Magic dominate Hornets from start to finish
The Magic are playing hard, with pace, moving the ball and trusting one another, I witnessed it up close in their 127-89 home win against the Hornets on February 14, when Terrence Ross scored 21 points off the bench and Nikola Vucevic had his fifth straight double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Seeds 6-10 in the Eastern Conference are separated by just three games and the Magic know that a strong finish over the final 23 games could give them a solid playoff position. Orlando has the easiest remaining schedule (a .480 winning percentage among their next opponents) among Brooklyn, Charlotte, Detroit and Miami.
Conversely, the Nets and Heat have the second and third-toughest schedules remaining, while the Hornets still have a difficult West Coast road trip and the Pistons have 15 of their last 26 games on the road, where they've gone just 9-17 thus far.
During their five-game winning streak, the Magic scored 118.8 points per game while holding opponents to just 96. They also had huge advantages in shooting from the floor (48.8 percent to 39.6 percent) and from 3-point range (39.8 percent to 28.1 percent).
The Chicago Bulls are:
2-8 ATS in their last 10 games following a straight up win
1-5-1 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS win
0-5 ATS in their last five games following a straight up win of more than 10 points
3-7 ATS in the last 10 meetings in Orlando
The Orlando Magic are:
5-0 ATS in their last five games overall
6-2 ATS in their last eight games against a team with a winning percentage below .400
6-2 ATS in their last eight home games against a team with a losing road record
7-3 ATS in their last 10 home games against a team with a road winning percentage below .400
This Magic team is on fire, there's tremendous value betting on them in the second half of the season and they can make some noise if they reach the playoffs. I just can't back my Bulls in this spot.
NBA Pick: Magic 1st Half -4.5 (-105) at Jazz Sports
Check odds here: http://bit.ly/jazzsportsON