for this game

Magic-Bulls Preview

Jan 2, 2010 - 6:28 AM By KATE HEDLIN STATS Writer

Orlando (23-8) at Chicago (13-17), 8:00 p.m. EDT

After a dismal offensive performance in front of a national audience on Christmas Day, coach Stan Van Gundy shuffled the Orlando Magic's lineup to give it more speed.

They had little trouble keeping up with the Chicago Bulls last season.

Having snapped a three-game road skid, Orlando will try to end the Bulls' season high-tying three-game run Saturday night in Chicago.

The Magic (24-8) halted their slide, and won for the fifth time in six games after beating Minnesota 106-94 on Friday. Although Dwight Howard and Vince Carter were held to nine and 12 points, respectively, Rashard Lewis had 21 and Matt Barnes reached double-figures for a second straight game, scoring 17 points.

Barnes, who also had 11 rebounds, got a second consecutive start after Van Gundy wanted to speed up the offense following an 86-77 loss to Boston on Dec. 25. Orlando shot 33.3 percent and had only seven assists in that game, but have since shot 50.3 percent and totaled 43 assists in convincing wins over Milwaukee and the Timberwolves.

"He's the only guy on our team that runs, first of all," Van Gundy said of Barnes. "Nobody else will run, they jog. He's different than our other guys because he cuts and he will rebound the ball all the time. He does a lot of things that our other perimeter players don't do. He gives us a totally different look, I think he complements our other guys really well."

The Magic are 7-2 with Barnes in the starting lineup, averaging 103.1 points. On Friday, he helped make up for the lack of production from Howard - the team's leading scorer with 17.1 points per game - who finished below 10 for the second time in three contests.

Howard and the Magic haven't had much trouble scoring against the Bulls (13-17), however. Orlando averaged 104.5 points while winning three of four in 2008-09 as Howard averaged 19.5 points and 12.5 rebounds.

The Magic might not have to score in bunches to beat Chicago in the first meeting of the season. The Bulls are tied for the third-lowest scoring team in the NBA at 91.7 points per game.

Orlando is looking to improve a 3-3 record in the second game of back-to-backs. The Magic have lost the last two.

While the Bulls have struggled to score, they have improved recently, averaging 99.3 points over their last three games. A 98-87 victory over Detroit on Thursday matched the team's longest losing streak of the season, set Nov. 3-7.

"This feels good," said Joakim Noah, who had 15 points and a career high-tying 21 rebounds. "I think we are just playing better basketball right now for whatever reason."

Derrick Rose scored 22 points. The reigning rookie of the year is averaging 23.4 points during the Bulls 5-2 stretch after averaging 18.6 in the previous 13 as went Chicago 2-11.

All of Chicago's last three wins have come against teams with losing records, but its next two opponents have records above .500. The Bulls are 3-11 against teams with winning records.