Bulls take NBA's best record to Orlando
(Sports Network) - A pair of Eastern Conference powers square off in the Magic Kingdom Monday when the top-seeded Chicago Bulls visit the Orlando Magic.
Chicago owns the NBA's best record at 37-10 and improved to 9-4 on the season without reigning MVP Derrick Rose by dispensing of the Philadelphia 76ers, 89-80, on Saturday.
Rose sat out his third straight contest with a sore groin and may not make the team's short road trip that includes tonight's stop in Orlando as well as a game in Toronto on Wednesday.
C.J. Watson, who is dealing with his own ankle problem, started in place of Rose against the Sixers and scored a team-high 20 points as the Bulls rallied in the second half to take down slumping Philadelphia.
Joakim Noah added 13 points and 11 rebounds, while Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson and Kyle Korver netted 11 points apiece for Chicago, which finished a six-game homestand with a 4-2 record.
"This was a very important win," Watson said. "We're trying to get that first seed, take home-court advantage and go from there. It's going to be pretty hard, but we just have to keep everyone healthy, try to win every game and just focus on us."
Orlando, which is opening up a three-game homestand Monday, is currently third in the East, 7 1/2 games behind Chicago and five behind Miami after falling to the Heat, 91-81, in south Florida on Sunday.
Dwight Howard scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead the Magic, while Quentin Richardson added five three-pointers off the bench for 15 points. Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson chipped in 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Magic, who have dropped two of their last three contests.
"Why we came in such a game and didn't bring any effort early is hard to understand," said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. "We just did not come to play."
Orlando stopped a four-game slide against the Bulls with a 99-94 win in the Windy City back on March 8. Chicago, however, beat the Magic in central Florida back in January.
Orlando, which is 16-7 as the host this season, will also face Phoenix and Cleveland on its residency. The Bulls, meanwhile, are a very solid 18-6 away from the United Center in 2011-12.
03/19 10:45:20 ET