The Good Guys: The Phoenix Suns, who are somehow still over .500 at 31-30
The Bad Guys: The Orlando Magic, 4-5 under interim coach James Borrego (he's a Popovich guy in case you're wondering)
Where: Amway Center, Orlando, FL
When: 5PM Arizona Time
The Tube: Fox Sports AZ
Monday night in Miami, the Suns looked over their list of possible ways to lose a game and realized that getting their starting frontcourt ejected while giving up 26 points to Tyler Johnson hadn't been crossed off yet. The Suns now stand at 2-5 since the trade and have won only 3 of their last 13 games overall. Mathematically, they are still in striking distance of the eighth playoff spot (2.5 games back), but realistically any loss from here on out could be the final death blow.
Orlando seems like it should be an easy victory, except for the fact that they have been playing well since Jacque Vaughn was fired and have already beaten the Suns 93-90 back on November 30. Remember all those games the Suns have played where they came out flat at home against a bad team and their late rally fell short? It was one of those.
This was the only thing worth remembering:
Oh Gerald, where art thou?
The Magic are lead by the ultra-young triumvirate of Nikola Vucevic (24), Tobias Harris (22) and Victor Oladipo (22), with rookie Elfrid Payton running the point. Their bench is a hodgepodge of youngsters (Aaron Gordon, Maurice Harkless) and seemingly random veterans (Willie Green, Ben Gordon, Luke Ridnour).
Oh, and something called a Channing Frye starts at the 4.
Frye is shooting 38.9% from deep -- his highest percentage since his 2010/11 campaign that was cut short by Kevin Durant. However, he has only taken 111 2-pointers compared to 298 3-pointers so his overall FG% is an unsightly 39.4%.
Still, it looks like Orlando is getting exactly what they paid for in Frye.
The real gem for the Magic is Vucevic, who would've been a cinch for the All-Star team if he played for a better team. His 19.8 points and 11.3 rebounds per game make him far and away the biggest steal so far of the Howard/Bynum/Iguodala trade. Yeah, the one everyone thought Orlando lost.
Meanwhile, Tobias Harris quietly continues to improve, putting up a career high 16.9 PPG with a newfound shooting stroke (37.1% from 3) as he heads into free agency.
Clearly it must be Alex Len versus Vucevic. While Len doesn't yet have anything close to the scoring prowess Vucevic has displayed, it will be very interesting to see how the Big Ukrainian comes out after his unpleasant experience Monday with Hassan Whiteside.
Even as this season circles the drain, watching Alex Len take on other young big men around the NBA is must-see TV.
Get him, Alex.
Prediction What to watch for
It's easy to fall into the trap of still being hopeful for a strong finish from this team after they were publicly blasted by coach Jeff Hornacek for being soft, but do yourself a favor -- don't worry about the final score. Take a page from the Knicks' SB Nation blog Posting and Toasting.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Reminder: The Official P&T ScoreBlocker™ is only $74.99 plus shipping and handling <a href="http://t.co/SVtw3dwSHa">http://t.co/SVtw3dwSHa</a> <a href="http://t.co/nxA0POCknS">pic.twitter.com/nxA0POCknS</a></p>— Posting and Toasting (@ptknicksblog) <a href="https://twitter.com/ptknicksblog/status/572936632455852032">March 4, 2015</a></blockquote>
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Put away your flamethrower for the evening and just enjoy watching a bunch of young guys scrambling around the court.
Tune in to watch Alex Len and wonder to yourself if perhaps he'll have an offensive game as refined as Nik Vucevic's by the time he turns 24 -- to go with his already stellar shotblocking and rebounding.
Look for signs that Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight can become something resembling Washington's Wall/Beal backcourt.
Check out the Mongoose as he attacks the paint.
Enjoy T.J. Warren's garbageman offense.
Unless of course Gerald Green and Marcus Thornton soak up all the reserve minutes at the wing, in which case hope for a win but don't hope too hard.