The road trip rolls on, with Orlando visiting Phoenix in a battle of two teams who have both spent recent seasons toiling away in NBA purgatory.
The Suns, having lost six of their last seven, find themselves in a sadly familiar position coming into this game: last place in the West with only four wins to their name. The Magic, by comparison, are still on the fringes of the Eastern Conference playoff race, and are increasingly starting to think earnestly about the possibility of post-season play.
If that’s going to eventuate it’s imperative that they get the job done against a team that currently ranks bottom three in both offense and defense. Even in the middle of a season-long road trip, and in what will be the team’s fourth game in six nights, these are the types of Ws you can’t let slip away if you want to be taken seriously. After the two recent heartbreakers, and having dropped four of their last five games, Orlando simply need to take care of business.
Despite their lowly spot in the standings there’s plenty to keep an eye on when it comes to Phoenix’s roster. Devin Booker is already well on his way to becoming a star on the court (although not on a unicycle). Deandre Ayton, this year’s number one overall pick, is already averaging a lazy 17 and 10. There are other intriguing pieces as well, like Josh Jackson (last year’s lottery talent), Mikal Bridges (the well-regarded rookie they snagged in a draft night trade), and Richaun Holmes (a hardworking big who has been productive in limited playing time). Having waived their starting point guard, Isaiah Canaan prior to their loss against the Clippers on Wednesday, the Suns have handed the reins (for now) to Elie Okobo, who was the top pick of the second round in the 2018 Draft.
Plus, they’ve somehow chalked up wins against the Bucks, Spurs, Grizzlies and Mavericks, four teams who combine for 47 wins on the season. Sometimes the NBA is crazy.
What questions might be rattling around in the head of Magic fans? How about:
- Will we see Aaron Gordon tonight? And, if we do, how effective will he be? He missed the last start against the Blazers with back tightness, an ailment which also reduced him to a shell of his normal self in the contest against the Dubs.
- Can Nikola Vucevic, he of national media attention and a legitimate All-Star campaign that seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train, drop a ‘welcome to the NBA’ performance on the rookie Ayton?
- Will Terrence Ross get back to shooting the deep ball like a man possessed (of accuracy)?
- What are the chances of Evan Fournier busting out of his general form slump?
- Will the Magic respond to Steve Clifford’s insistence that they fight for more rebounds?
- And it’s the first official professional match-up between Deandre Ayton and Mo Bamba, the first two bigs taken in the 2018 NBA Draft....
As always, be sure to join us in the Game Thread and dive into the discussion!