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Preview: Suns (29-13) looking for 30th win of the season against free-falling Magic (14-29)

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The Suns have won 8 of their last 10 games while Orlando has dropped 9 of their last 10.

NBA: All Star Game-Team Lebron vs Team Durant Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns are sitting firmly in 2nd place in the Western Conference, and are looking for their 8th straight road win.

These are two teams that are moving in polar opposite directions, as the Orlando Magic have now dropped 9 of their last 10 contests, while the Suns remain one of the hottest teams in the association.

Phoenix is coming off a convincing win over another Florida team in the Miami Heat last night, while the Magic fell to the Denver Nuggets by double digits.

Trade Deadline Watch

The Magic are also facing a ton of external distractions with the trade deadline rapidly approaching. Aaron Gordon reportedly wants out, and they are listening to offers for Evan Fournier as well. Keep an eye out for any last-minute scratches from the lineup as it’s very possible that one of the two are dealt before the game starts, or even held out for precautionary reasons by the front office.

On Phoenix’s front, it seems like you can expect it to be a very quiet deadline that comes and goes without any major moves.


Team Stats

Injury Report

  • Phoenix: Abdel Nader (knee soreness— OUT)
  • Orlando: Terrence Ross (knee— OUT), Mo Bamba (toe—Questionable), Chasson Randle (groin— Questionable)

Projected Starters

Phoenix: Chris Paul/Devin Booker/Mikal Bridges/Jae Crowder/Deandre Ayton

Orlando: Carter-Williams/Evan Fournier/Al-Farouq Aminu/Aaron Gordon/Nikola Vucevic


Keys to the Game

Ayton vs. Vucevic

This will be the matchup to watch, as Vucevic is putting together an extremely impressive season and has carried Orlando all year long. Keeping Ayton out of foul trouble will be the key in containing the Magic’s all-star big man.

It will be a good test for Deandre, as he’s coming off consecutive productive games, so it would be encouraging to see him continue his engaged play on both ends of the floor. When he plays like he did against Miami last night, the Suns are nearly unbeatable.

Strong start

Put them away early. When playing any bad team, you don’t want them to hang around so you have to overextend your starters’ minutes. Put them away early and don’t give them any hope heading into the 4th quarter. They handled the Magic in the first meeting of the season (Orlando only had 8 active players) by a commanding score of 109-90.

Get out of this back-to-back well-rested and healthy for their next contest against the Raptors. I’d love nothing more than to see Chris Paul and Devin Booker rest for the majority of the 4th quarter.

Hold Orlando to under 120 points

This seems to be the key to Phoenix’s success this season.

In games where they hold their opponents to under 120 points, they have won 21 straight games. It’s a fairly remarkable statistic that is indicative of the culture and identity they have established this season.

Prediction

Phoenix blows Orlando out. 115-96.