A showdown on the road against the league’s best team – on the second night of a back-to-back to boot – is a tough assignment for any side, let alone one at the bottom of the standings. So it was for the Magic, the side falling in the desert against a superior Suns side that simply ran them off the court. When the dust settled it was 132-105 in Phoenix’s favor, a dominant offensive display sending the Magic to their second loss of the weekend.
The contest started out at a hectic pace, the two sides getting out in transition and trading chances in a pretty wide open game of basketball. For the Magic it was once again the straw of Jalen Suggs stirring the drink, a deliberate intent to get downhill evident in his play as he attacked the painted area. It worked, the young guard racking up a personal haul of 9 points and 2 assists as he played a direct hand in 15 of the team’s first 16 points. Unfortunately, a crafty veteran move by Chris Paul consigned him to his third early foul, his trip to the bench coinciding with a 5-0 Suns burst that gave them an early 24-16 advantage.
As the teams turned to units heavier on reserves the Magic were able to wrest back some of the momentum. Back-to–back jumpers by Terrence Ross and Chuma Okeke brought them within a basket, but a late flurry by Phoenix – spurred by careless turnovers and impatient shot attempts by Orlando – was enough for the home side to establish a double-digit margin. Elfrid Payton’s triple at the quarter-time buzzer sent the Magic into the break trailing 36-26.
A pair of early triples allowed the Magic to keep pace in the opening stages of the second, but recent weaknesses continued to plague the team. Turnovers remained a concern, the miscues fueling Phoenix’s transition game and compounded by some lackadaisical point-of-entry defense. Additionally, a number of Orlando possessions devolved into one-pass sets, with a lack of bodies in motion and minimal ball movement. The result was a steady accumulation of Suns runs, a pair of 6-0 bursts in the quarter seeing them open up a 19 point margin as they went up 56-37.
A brief Suggs-inspired burst threatened to allow the Magic to get back into it, but the metronomic efficiency of Phoenix’s pick-and-roll assault rolled on unabated. Chris Paul was masterful in pulling the strings, and when the ball was out of his hands it was the secondary playmakers on the Suns roster who were able to stand up. The deficit ultimately swelled beyond 20 on a couple of occasions, before a pair of three-point makes contributed to a late 12-5 Magic run. At the half it was 67-53, Orlando with very few answers on the defensive end.
Sweet sequence for Suggs— Beyond the RK (@beyondtheRK) February 13, 2022
through-the-legs-backwards-bounce-pass to set up Franz for the fast-break FLUSH!
the reverses keep coming pic.twitter.com/1TXku442hV
The Magic opened the third with a spark, a quick 8-2 burst cutting the deficit to single digits. However, they had few answers for Devin Booker as the All-Star guard heated up, going 3-3 in the mid-range and drilling a three for 9 quick points of his own. A Chris Paul three then capped an 8-0 Phoenix run, the lead ballooning to 18 as Orlando went down 81-63.
The Suns continued to pull further away from the Magic, matching any basket the visitors did muster and then tacking on some extra for good measure. It continued to be the pick-and-roll –or simply the threat of it – causing Orlando all sorts of trouble, with Booker and Paul seemingly taking turns to put the Magic through the two-man ringer. In fact, there was just one Phoenix basket in the quarter’s first ten minutes that the pair didn’t play a direct hand in, an uncontested open court dunk that Mikal Bridges stuffed home after a wild Cole Anthony turnover. Add to that the temporary exit of Suggs – again bothered by a lower-body injury (worth asking: why is he even playing?!) – and it made for a rough quarter for the Magic, now trailing 100-78 as the game entered the final frame.
This appears to be the play Jalen Suggs aggravated his right Achilles injury: pic.twitter.com/fsngS48brh— Khobi Price (@khobi_price) February 13, 2022
A barrage of threes allowed the Magic to rack up some quick points in the fourth, but the
Suns were able to keep pace with some sweet shooting of their own. Orlando’s search for defensive answers saw them experiment with a classic 2-3 zone set-up, including the interesting wrinkle of Franz Wagner at the five. Although it seemed like they found some success, at one point cutting the deficit to 16, it was more a function of the Phoenix offense taking its foot off the gas; the bench unit was settling for jumpers, and for the first time all night they seemed more likely to rattle out than in.
When the Magic went cold the Suns were able to extinguish any lingering doubt as to the final result, pushing the margin back out beyond 20 and leading to the mutual waving of white flags by both sides. The two teams played out the string over the final minutes, Phoenix arriving at their fourth 30-point quarter for the night in a dominant display over a lethargic Orlando outfit.
Orlando’s three stars
Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.
First star: Jalen Suggs — 20 points (on 7-14 shooting), a career-high 10 assists, and 6 rebounds for the tenacious rookie. He was a little more effective in dictating the flow of the game tonight, the continuation of a trend that has steadily emerged since his return from injury.
Second star: Chuma Okeke — 15 points and 9 rebounds in an energetic effort, with 40.0% shooting from deep, the generation of four free-throw attempts, and increased ball-handling responsibility evidence of the steady upwards trajectory of his game in recent weeks.
Third star: Franz Wagner — was quiet by his own standards, but his versatility was on full display in the fourth as he helmed the center possession in a small ball configuration. Tonight was just further evidence of the fact that the Magic have a player with the potential to grow into something special in this league.
A second straight blowout for the Magic, who continue their road trip Monday in Denver.