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Recap: Phoenix Suns lose to the Orlando Magic 109-103 in a battle of tanks

Hoist the cannons.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Some assorted thoughts from tonight’s game:

  • Both the Suns and Magic came into the game with some heavy draft implications on the docket — a win for Orlando would give them 25 on the season and lengthen the distance between them and Phoenix (22 wins) in the race for the most ping pong balls in the draft lottery. The Magic’s tanking effort hasn’t been as transparent as the Suns’ to this point (they are still playing all of their best players), but the results have been similar. Such a strange time of year.
  • The first quarter was a sloppy one for the Suns, resulting in lifeless, lethargic play, nine turnovers, and an eight-point deficit. There were a few too many Alex Len post-ups for my liking, mucking up the pace of the game in the process. The Suns’ offense is an entirely different animal when relegated to the half court, which is typical for most youth-oriented lineups. There is a whole different juice when Tyler Ulis is given the opportunity to scamper freely to create for both himself and others. Speaking of which...
  • Ulis poured in another masterful effort, inputting his fingerprints on just about everything the Suns did on offense when he was on the court. His soaring confidence is palpable, and you can tell he is becoming more comfortable with finding his real estate on the court. Ulis sets up his scoring early in the game when he spends much of the the first quarter leveraging his shiftiness to thread pocket passes to knifing big men. Once the defense overcompensates with their help, he is prone to nailing open mid range shots at a high percentage. Reminds you of some other great point guard, doesn’t it?
  • The pick-and-roll chemistry between Ulis and Alan Williams is a sight to behold. I’m not sure of its origin, but man is it fun to watch. Surround those two with shooters on the second unit, and they will be a chore for opposing benches to contain heading into next season.
  • Marquese Chriss was having himself a night before leaving the game with an ice pack on his forehead for a brief period. Chriss came over for at least two vicious weak side blocks, and was generally wreaking havoc just by being his bouncy self. He still needs to figure out how to stay out of foul trouble, but it is hard to not love what you see on a night-to-night basis.
  • T.J. Warren somehow always ends up in the neighborhood of 20 points (26 tonight) when you look down at the box score. His game is so unassuming — he doesn’t dominate the ball, but efficiently feasts on small gaps in the defense.
  • Weird game for Devin Booker. He was coming off of a poor showing against the Kings on Wednesday night and may just be in the midst of a shooting swoon. On the other hand, there will be growing pains coming his way now that the defense is completely focused on stopping him.
  • I tend not to be an endorser of black jerseys because everyone has their own version nowadays, but the Suns have some clean ones. Perhaps I have been swayed by Drake’s influence.
  • I know that tanking is the theme for teams playing for nothing right now, but the absence of Eric Bledsoe is a real downer. The guy has represented the city, the organization, and his peers with nothing but class all season, and was enjoying a career year with consistent health. If he wants to play, let him play. You don’t have to play him for 38 minutes a game the rest of the way, but at least give those fans making their first trip to the arena this season the chance to see the team’s best player in action. I realize that I am in the minority, but I believe that we are losing perspective on what is and is not important. High draft picks are great “assets” in theory, yet no matter how jacked up everyone is about this class, they are no sure thing. Bledsoe is one of my favorite people to watch play basketball — I’m bummed that that experience has been robbed from me for the remainder of the season.

Here is a box score for those interested.