The Phoenix Suns head into 2024 with a win over the Orlando Magic, 112-107. Light the fireworks, the team is on a winning streak.
All members of the Big Three (Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, and Devin Booker) finished with 20+ points, showing glimpses of an unstoppable force on the offensive side of the ball. With Beal mentioning that the Suns' defense played like “trash” at times in Friday's win against the Charlotte Hornets, the Suns grabbed 12 steals, leading to 18 fastbreak points.
The Magic, behind Paolo Banchero’s 28 points, stayed with the Suns for the majority of the game, finding themselves down 16 points in the third, but managed to fight back and take a one-point lead. The shot-making of Beal, Durant, and Booker was just too much to withstand.
You could feel the presence from Paolo Banchero early on to start the game, pulling in seven of the first nine points for the Magic. Paolo pushed the pace, got what he wanted in the paint, and made things difficult on Durant defensively. The Suns then managed to deflect passes, with Durant grabbing two early steals. The transition offense for the Suns got out to a hot start, led by Beal, putting the Suns up 18-9 early on.
Beal led the Suns with nine points, taking a 23-17 point lead into the second-called timeout of the game with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
Brad with 9 early points midway through the first quarter pic.twitter.com/uFlj9emKM2— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 1, 2024
Nurkic managed to clean things up, grabbing two early offensive rebounds leading to four points. Nurkic had eight points and four rebounds to end the first quarter. He was an absolute beast in the paint, remaining between the opposition and the basket for the majority of the first quarter.
Booker fished off the first quarter with five straight points, leading the the Suns with nine points and taking a 37-24 point lead into the second quarter.
It was 39-34 with the Suns still ahead in the early going of the second, but they were relying heavily on Beal and Durant, taking four of the first four shots. The defense for the Suns left the Magic wide open shot-after-shot on bad communication but the Magic couldn't quite take advantage of it. With Durant hitting four straight points, the lead went back up to 10, 46-36.
The experiment with Beal and Durant at the helm without Booker had its good and its bad. Times the ball would stop and stall, but the next possession the ball would move and the defense continued to force turnovers, turning those into easy points. Durant was able to take care of the mismatches and lead fast breaks, holding the lead until Booker returned.
Brad with the strong steal— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) January 1, 2024
Leading to a KD Wham Bam Slam! pic.twitter.com/UGh9TAtcbL
Closing out the second quarter, the Magic moved the ball well and continued to catch the Suns off-guard with back cuts. The lead for the Suns dwindled down to only five, but behind Booker's 16 points heading into half-time, the Suns closed out the half with a 67-58 lead over the Magic.
The Suns opened the second half on a 9-2 run, with everyone touching the ball. The full force of the big-3 led the pack with wide-open lanes to the rim and immaculate spacing from three. At this time of the game, this was the best the Big Three had ever looked, even with a few missed opportunities. Make that the big-4, adding Grayson Allen to the mix.
GRAYSON ALLEN BEHIND THE SHOULDER TO BOOKER pic.twitter.com/alZ5wPF4AE— Cage (@ridiculouscage) January 1, 2024
With the lead reaching 16, the Magic brought the Suns back to earth, cutting the lead to nine after hitting a few wide-open attempts from behind the arc. With the lead cut to six, the Suns called a timeout, in hopes of cleaning up the defense around the perimeter.
And just like that, the lead for the Suns was down to three. When the Suns go through offensive slumps, it is hard to rely on the defense to make stops and hold a 10-point lead. booker was able to find good looks from mid-range but was unable to drain three of his open attempts in a row. The Magic continued to move the ball on their end, cutting the Suns lead to only two, behind Banchero’s 25 points heading into the fourth quarter.
The Magic kept up the, well... magic from behind the arc and getting to the rim. With the Suns' defense having their backs to the ball movement, the Magic started the fourth quarter with easy looks and took their first lead of the game, 96-95 with 9:25 to go in the game.
With Beal, Durant, and Booker finishing the game on a strong note both on the offensive and defensive end, the Magic ran out of luck from behind the three-point line. The Suns boxed out well, and pushed the pace, finishing off the Magic 112-107.
The Suns play again tomorrow night, this time welcoming the Portland Trail Blazers to town.
Happy New Year, Bright Side!