When: 7:00 p.m. AZ
Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena
Watch: Fox Sports Arizona
Listen: 98.7 FM
Suns - Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren, Deandre Ayton
Magic - D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Simmons, Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic
Note: Aaron Gordon is questionable with lower back tightness
The Orlando Magic have been better than usual so far this year, with a 10-12 record and the league’s 18th-ranked defense, though they’ve lost four of their last five games against difficult competition (the Suns know all about that!).
They pass well (6th in assists) and rebound well (9th in rebounds).
Nikola Vucevic keeps getting in the way of Orlando’s latest youth movement by playing too well to bench. He’s putting up 21 points per game, pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing 3.9 assists. In other veteran news, Terrence Ross has been lighting it up lately with 15 points per game on 44% three point shooting, while D.J. Augustin leads the team in assists. This is the value of having playable veterans in the rotation mix. Even Evan Fournier — now 26 years old — is a veteran in that regard.
Young players Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba are allowed to play in their roles and come along at their own pace. Gordon leads the team in minutes per game, while Isaac (sixth) and Bamba (ninth) come off the bench.
Over the past eight games now, the Suns are much more competitive while going even younger in the rotation. The starting lineup now has Mikal Bridges along with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, all 22 or younger, and have a great net rating — one of the best in the league — since Bridges joined the starters.
Let’s see how rookie Elie Okobo does in his return to the rotation after a super performance, including a career high 19 points in 31 minutes, on Wednesday night in LA. He played a lot more confidently after spending a few weeks with the G-League team, learning Igor’s plays and the point guard’s responsibilities in a high-volume, low-stress environment.
Now De’Anthony Melton is back with the Suns too. We will see who gets the backup PG minutes, or if they share the 20-30 minutes available behind and next to Booker.
I really think the Suns win this game. Orlando is reeling lately, while the Suns are seeming to find themselves.