The Orlando Magic coasted to a 91-59 lead through three quarters over the shorthanded Phoenix Suns on Thursday night, then floundered through an ugly final quarter to deal them a 105-89 defeat for their third consecutive win. Each Magic starter made at least five baskets and scored at least 13 points, led by Dwight Howard, who poured in 20 points and 12 rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting in just 30 minutes. Without Robin Lopez, the Suns were forced to cover Howard with the likes of Channing Frye, Earl Barron, and Garret Siler, who simply could not contain the seven-time All-Star.
Quentin Richardson regained his outside shooting stroke, sinking 3 of his 7 three-pointers, while the Magic looked to establish slumping sharpshooter Rashard Lewis in the low post, and he responded with 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including two fast-break jams. Former Magic forward Grant Hill led the Suns with 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting with a series of nimble drives to the cup, but he proved to be the only Phoenix starter who really showed up tonight. Goran Dragic, starting at point guard in place of surefire Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash, committed 5 of his game-high 6 turnovers in the first period, setting the tone for a sloppy game in which it became immediately clear the Suns had no chance of sticking with Orlando.
The result shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Without Nash and Lopez, Phoenix is at least 16 points worse than the Magic on the road, particularly in the second night of a back-to-back set. Only the lopsided fourth period, in which the Suns' wacky second unit--small forward/glue guy Jared Dudley ran point guard, for example--badly outplayed Orlando's, made the score look even this respectable.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
To start, Phoenix has one of the league's worst defenses, but it did the Magic a favor with its series of live-ball turnovers, fueling Orlando's usually weak transition game. TNT microphones picked up Suns coach Alvin Gentry saying "there's no defense for turnovers" during a first-half timeout, and he's exactly right. The Suns had a slim margin for error in this game, given its poor defense and two missing starters, a margin they crossed in the first quarter en route to this blowout loss.
From the Magic's perspective, perhaps their own turnovers and spotty bench play are the only negatives. The reserves shot 9-of-30 from the floor for 29 points, with Mickael Pietrus accounting for 4 field goals and 10 points himself. Chris Duhon turned the ball over 5 times in 20 minutes. Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat at least managed to grab 11 boards, and some tough bounces partially explains their poor shooting. Still, Orlando's bench has enough raw talent that it should have steamrolled Phoenix's with relative ease. Earl Clark, whose fourth-year contract option the Suns did not see fit to exercise this summer, added 12 points and 6 boards in 16 minutes. Players of his caliber ought not perform so well against Orlando, blowout or not.
It's hard to find fault with the Magic's starters, that's for sure, though Lewis' sloppiness with the ball (4 turnovers) is worrisome. But Jameer Nelson dished a season-high 12 assists, just one shy of his career-best, while playing the same efficient, probing brand of ball that earned him an All-Star berth in 2009. Vince Carter scored a quiet 13 points. Howard drained two jumpers from the sideline logo over Siler in the third period alone. Richardson took advantage of Hill in the post. Great all-around work from the starting five.
The TNT crew of Kevin Harlan and Reggie Miller kept wondering if the Magic might've been better off re-signing Hedo Turkoglu in 2009 rather than trading for Carter. Turkoglu, who spent the best years of his career with the Magic, missed all 8 of his shot attempts tonight and finished with 2 points, 4 boards, 3 assists, a steal, and 3 turnovers. I think we can safely put that discussion to bed now, no?
Orlando can run its winning streak to three games, and its overall record to 9-3, with a win Saturday night in Indianapolis.