What: Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns
When: 7:00 PM AZ Time
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona, NBA League Pass
Listen: 98.7 FM
The Suns have gotten a firsthand look at how the bottom and middle of the Eastern Conference is over-performing over the last several weeks, first on a three-game road trip and then in games against the Nets and Heat at home this week. As they prepare to take on the Orlando Magic, who are perhaps the conference’s biggest overachievers so far, the difficulty of earning even one win in the NBA is staring them in the face.
The distraction of Eric Bledsoe’s unhappiness and trade situation is finally behind the team, and the focus is on-court once again.
ESPN’s Nick Friedell reports that Chandler will once again be OUT for tonight’s game.
PG: Elfrid Payton / Mike James
SG: Evan Fournier / Devin Booker
SF: Terrence Ross / T.J. Warren
PF: Aaron Gordon / Marquese Chriss
C: Nikola Vucevic / Alex Len
The biggest stories surrounding the Magic right now are their point guard rotation and their shooting.
Thanks to coach Frank Vogel’s newfound willingness to put together a more modern offensive system, Orlando ranks second in the league in 3-point shooting, at 41 percent. However, due to unsustainable early-season hot streaks from guys like Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, that number was bound to fall. And over Orlando’s last three games it has: the Magic are shooting less than 32 percent from distance in that span.
Suns’ opponents are shooting 34 percent from distance during Jay Triano’s tenure as head coach after lighting the Suns up in the first three games. How will this 3-point balance teeter during tonight’s game?
In terms of the point guard rotation, the Magic will finally return to normalcy following Elfrid Payton’s eight-game absence to start the season. At one point they were starting Terrence Ross, Jonathon Simmons and Fournier in the backcourt with no traditional point guard at all. Though backup D.J. Augustin is still out, having Payton and backup Shelvin Mack will give them an advantage over the Suns’ diminutive ball-handler rotation.
Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: Devin Booker was a monster against Miami on Wednesday night. He maybe could have been more efficient shooting the ball, but was aggressive and smart throughout the first half and kept the Suns in the game.
Defensively, it was the best I’ve maybe ever seen Booker look. Triano has been saying recently that he’s asking Booker to do more on defense than he’s ever done. Against Miami’s backcourt, Booker was leaping out toward the ball-handler on the pick-and-roll, similar to what LeBron James’ Heat teams did and what the Milwaukee Bucks do now.
The big man defending the screener still mostly settled back into the paint, especially when Hassan Whiteside was doing the screening. But watching Booker use his foot speed to muck up possessions like that was inspiring. As always, he’s the biggest key for the Suns.
Aside from that, Gordon presents an interesting matchup for the Suns defensively. Dragan Bender has shown a lot on that end lately, corralling ball-handlers and changing shots at the rim, but he will likely struggle handling Gordon’s athleticism.