The reality is this is tuneup time, even if the Magic don't seem to need it.
Carter scored all of his 21 points in the first half and the Magic rolled past another opponent for their 19th straight preseason win, 105-67 over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night.
"We're approaching preseason as the regular season, so we don't have to, if you will, change gears," said Carter, who struggled in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston last season but has played aggressively since the start of training camp. "It's not, 'All right, this is for real, let's go ahead and play for real.' No. That's our approach each and every game."
Sure looks that way.
Dwight Howard had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and J.J. Redick scored 16 points to help the Magic (5-0) rout the opposition in a game that will mean little in June. They held a 28-point halftime lead, went ahead by 38 through three quarters and as many as 47 in the fourth.
The Magic have won so big so far that veteran players had to remind the team after the game to stay focused.
"The biggest thing is we don't want to tease everybody into thinking that every game is going to be like this. No it's not," Howard said. "But we're going to go out every night and the only thing we can promise and that everybody should expect is we're going to go out and play hard every night."
A tired Bulls team playing a back-to-back was content with resting starters once it was blown out early.
"It is a learning experience, but I told guys that this can't happen again," Rose said. "Some people will get cursed out or whatever. We just showed no fight."
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy rested most of his starters in the previous game but seemed content pushing players in this one. It was quite a contrast to Chicago.
The Bulls lost at home in overtime against Dallas a night earlier and didn't arrive in Orlando until the early morning. And they played like it, too.
The Magic rode a wave of streaky shooting by Carter -- who made his first three shots from beyond the arc -- to go ahead 25-10 and quickly turn another exhibition game into a rout. The Bulls didn't do much to counter, playing sluggish, sloppy basketball and showing little energy defensively.
Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau also relied on his reserves more than usual because starters such as Rose logged heavy minutes the night before. Not that his usuals fared any better.
Howard continued to draw double-teams from Chicago's undersized frontline, Carter let loose with hard-driving layups and potent perimeter shooting and Orlando ran away with a 51-23 halftime lead that was never seriously challenged.
"Definitely embarrassing," Bulls forward Joakim Noah said.
The Magic haven't lost a preseason game since they were defeated by Atlanta in the 2008 opener. And they're not just winning this preseason, they're winning big.
Orlando has beaten its last three opponents by 38 (Chicago), 13 (Charlotte) and 54 (New Orleans). And 11 of the 19 victories during the preseason streak have come by double digits.
"It was all exciting the first year. The second year I think we were like 8-0. Last year, we were 8-0. Right now I really don't care," said backup center Marcin Gortat, who had 14 points and eight rebounds. "I mean, seriously. This is preseason. Who cares? You can see the difference in behavior in certain players. When we start playing for real and counting points, that's when we're going to need to be ready."
Bulls F Taj Gibson missed his second straight game because of a sore right heel. Omer Asik started in his place. ... Magic SF Mickael Pietrus missed the game with a sore right wrist, and SG Quentin Richardson sat out with because of stiffness.
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