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Orlando Magic 122, Phoenix Suns 100

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In a matchup that saw two teams play on a back-to-back, the Orlando Magic easily dispatched the Phoenix Suns by a score of 122-100, handing Phoenix its first loss of the season. The word of the day for the Magic was focus and it turned out that the team was not only focused, but prepared to slow down a prolific offensive attack from the Suns (coming into the game 2nd in pace and 3rd in offensive efficiency) who were without the Brazilian Blur, Leandro Barbosa (injured wrist), and Robin Lopez (foot). Not to be outdone, however, Orlando was without the services of Vince Carter (ankle) and Rashard Lewis (suspension) for the evening. For Carter, he re-aggravated his injury in the game against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night and was unable to play against Phoenix. Carter is day-to-day. 

 

Even without Carter, the Magic were still able to perform magnificently against a formidable opponent. As has been the trend for this year, balance was the name of the game for Orlando on offense. Six players finished in double-figures and three of them notched double-doubles - Ryan Anderson (20 points, 10 rebounds), Matt Barnes (13 points, 11 rebounds), and Jameer Nelson (16 points, 10 assists). Despite dealing with foul trouble the entire night, Dwight Howard was able to score 25 points in roughly 23 minutes of gametime.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Suns 96 104.2 49.4% 14.8 32.7 18.8
Magic 127.6 59.1% 20.5 33.3 15.7

After the Pistons debacle, in which it seemed like Magic players were settling too much for the three-point shot, the team did a much better job of playing inside-out from start to finish. In the first quarter, Nelson got off to a quick start on offense - making lay-ups off dribble penetration and in the fast break, hitting mid-range jumpers with ease, and finding teammates for numerous assists. For example, on two consecutive possessions in the quarter, Nelson was able to find Howard for a dunk and a lay-up to get the big fella going early (before he got into foul trouble, a recurring theme it seems).

 

Kudos to Ryan Anderson, after missing 10 threes against Detroit, for making the proper adjustments and attacking the basket here and there. On Anderson's first touch in the game, he faked a three, took it to the hole, and drew the foul. Oddly enough, Anderson missed the free-throws but the intent was the correct one. Anderson didn't let the misses bother him too much, as the next possession down, he sank a three in transition. For the remainder of the period, Anderson did a great job of diversifying his offensive game and not settling for threes - even getting a tip-in layup and put-back dunk in for good measure.

 

In the second quarter, aside from a Howard cameo for a few minutes, Nelson carried Orlando on offense.

 

SECOND QUARTER

- [7:40] Howard lay-up (Nelson assist)

- [7:06] Bass dunk (Nelson assist)

- [6:42] Nelson, 14' turnaround jump shot

- [5:43] Redick, three-point 25' jump shot (Nelson assist)

- [4:16] Nelson driving lay-up

- [:50.6] Anderson lay-up (Nelson assist)

 

A fantastic quarter for Nelson. This may seem blasphemous to state, but Nelson out-"Nashed" Nash in the period, offensively. Probing into the lane for a jumper, finding teammates through dribble penetration, taking his defender (Nash, in this case) off the dribble for a layup, attacking the basket and drawing fouls. These are just the specifics to supplement the play-by-play data.

 

The third quarter might as well be renamed "Howard's revenge" or something because he went berserk as he has in the past (17 points in the period), and understandably so, after not seeing much time on the floor in the first half. First possession of the second half, Howard made a layup off a 4-out/1-in offensive set. A few possessions later, Nelson and Howard ran the 1/5 pick & roll, in which Howard made another layup. Those, ladies and gentlemen, are the "go-to" plays for the Magic. 

 

Two instances, in particular during the quarter, got the crowd on their feet. First, after Matt Barnes made a fantastic steal in transition as Jared Dudley was going up for a layup, Nelson raced down the court, faked a pass, purposely threw the ball off the backboard, and Howard was there for the monster slam. Second, with the aforementioned Williams in the game, he found Howard for an alley-oop pass and dunk that blew the roof off the Amway Arena. 

 

Orlando expanded a halftime lead of 6 to 23 in the third quarter, and Phoenix cut the deficit to 14 with a 9-0 run to end the period, but the game seemed well in hand. The second unit came in for the Magic in the fourth quarter and took it home, extending the lead to as much as 28. Brandon Bass impressed, getting a few dunks in - one off a pass from Barnes and another by penetrating into the lane & dunking on Louis Amundson. Likewise, Bass made his patented mid-range jumper along the baseline for good measure. Can't forget about Bass' defense either, particularly on one possession, where he blocked Amar'e Stoudemire's shot attempt and Barnes went coast-to-coast for a layup. Even Marcin Gortat got in on the action, serving up a "welcome to the NBA" dunk on rookie Taylor Griffin late in the period.

 

With Orlando playing well, the Detroit game seems so long ago.

 

Before wrapping things up, it must be pointed out that Barnes played a terrific game against Phoenix. Barnes made numerous hustle plays throughout the course of the night - diving for a loose ball and passing it to Anderson for a three-pointer, having a great sense of mind to deflect an alley-oop pass to prevent a fast break bucket, and more. Barnes' stat line was impressive (13 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals), showing that he was doing a little bit of everything to help the Magic notch a victory against the Suns. Maybe there was some extra motivation for Barnes in the game, facing off against a former team. Maybe there wasn't.

 

As for the Orlando defense, one may see the points allowed and might surmise that the team didn't do well on that end of the floor but that wasn't the case at all. To hold a prolific Phoenix offense to 100 points is good, even if the opponent missed some open shots. As head coach Stan Van Gundy noted in the presser, the pick & roll defense was excellent. Team-wise, the Suns were held below its averages (in bold) in two of the Four Factors.

 

eFG% TOV% ORB% FT/FGA
2009-2010 regular season .579 .157 .240 .254
.494 .148 .327 .188

 

Player-wise, Frye wasn't much of a factor due to foul trouble, Nash was held below his season averages in assists and points, Hill & Richardson went scoreless, and so on and so forth. Stoudemire played relatively well, however. All the aforementioned individuals, aside from Stoudemire, didn't see minutes in the fourth quarter so that should be noted. Regardless, the Magic deserve credit for its efforts on the defensive side of the ball even if a disclaimer needs to be made.

 

The Orlando Magic are off tomorrow before facing off against the Detroit Pistons on Friday for the second time in four days. It remains to be seen whether or not Vince Carter will play in that game and also, whether or not Orlando will defeat Detroit. Until then.