It’s Game Day 44 as Phoenix lands in Orlando to face the Magic in the Amway. This is the second night of a back-to-back for Orlando. It is also the second of three hard games against tough opponents from the Western Conference in the next 4 nights.
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The tip time is shown on the NBA app and Orlando Magic website as being a 12 midnight here in the UK (8pm Eastern for our friends in Orlando).
THE MATCHUP AS PHOENIX LANDS IN ORLANDO
The Suns are also on the second night of a back-to-back having played last night in Miami. Phoenix won by 110-100 over the Heat. Devin Booker led the Suns with 23 points. Deandre Ayton scored a double-double with 17 points and 16 rebounds. 3 others scored double digits. Chris Paul led the team in assists with 9 assists.
Orlando again lost last night by 110-99 to the Denver Nuggets. A poor first half saw the Magic struggling to be in touch with Denver. An improved second half effort cut a game high 24 point deficit to 5 points mid way through the 4th quarter. Unfortunately Denver pulled away for the win. Evan Fournier led the team with 31 points.
The Suns have won 14 of 19 road games this season. Orlando have won 9 of 23 games at home in the Amway. Season records see Orlando at 14-29, whilst Phoenix are at 29-13. Across the last 10 games that each team has played the Suns have a 8-2 record, whilst Orlando are 1-9. Phoenix have won their last 3 games, whilst Orlando are on a 2 game losing streak.
Orlando remain 14th in the Eastern Conference, whilst the Phoenix are 2nd in the Western Conference.
OUR OPPONENTS – THE PHOENIX SUNS
Phoenix come into the game as the NBA’s 8th ranked offensive team, scoring an average of 114 points per game. The Suns are ranked defensively at 4th, conceding 107.3 points per game.
Offensively they play at a patient pace, choosing to build their offensive opportunities. This approach sees them get 27.4 assists per game (2nd in the NBA). However if the opportunity arises to go fast they are more than capable to mount a fast break, getting 12.4 fastbreak points per game. They shoot 49% from the field (only bettered by Brooklyn) and 38.8% from the 3. Looking at scoring 52% of the Suns points come in the paint and 34.7% from beyond the arc. Phoenix do not get to the free throw line very often, a league low 18.2 times per game, but hit 82.9% of them for 15.1 points per game.
Defensively they rate almost identically to Orlando for blocks. They have one of the leagues lowest rates for stealing the ball from opponents, at 6.6 times per game it is 0.1 less than Orlando. They do not defend the paint well, conceding 53.2% of opponents points from inside the paint, 30.9% from beyond the arc and 15.8% from free throws. The Suns take care of the ball and turn it over at a low rate, identical to that of Orlando per game. They commit on average 19.8 fouls per game.
THE PHOENIX SUNS SQUAD
Last night Coach Monty Williams started Devon Booker (25.1 PPG), Chris Paul (15.7 PPG), DeAndre Ayton (14.5 PPG), Mikal Bridges (13.7 PPG) and Jae Crowder (10.1 PPG).
From the bench came Cameron Payne (7.2 PPG), Torrey Craig (2.9 PPG), Cameron Johnson (10.3 PPG), Langston Galloway (5.1 PPG), Dario Saric (10.3 PPG), Ty-Shon Alexander (0 PPG), Jevon Carter (2.8 PPG) and Jalen Smith (1.3 PPG).
They also have Frank Kaminsky (6.6 PPG) and E’Twaun Moore (4.3 PPG) as an option.
According to ESPN the Suns have only Abdel Nader (6.7 PPG) out with a knee issue and he is day-to-day.
THE HEAD-TO-HEAD: THE PHOENIX SUNS
The all time head-to-head record in the 62 regular season games played sees the Magic losing by 25-37.
The teams met in Phoenix on Game Day 28 this season. Orlando lost 90-109. There was little if anything in the game for Magic fans to get excited about. For Orlando it was a woeful shooting performance. The effort and fight was there but not the options or opportunity to influence the game with only 8 fit players.
The previous two seasons had seen the Magic tie the series 1-1.
The teams have never met in the playoffs.
WILL TRADE DEADLINE AFFECT THE FIXTURE?
That is a good question, but on the evidence of last night the answer is no.
Aaron Gordon is reported to have asked for a trade from Orlando in February. He has now spoken of his frustrations with injuries, losses and the way the team are playing as his reasoning for asking. There are suggestions he is cooling on the idea though. Evan Fournier is an expiring contract at the season end. This is expected by many experts to be the last game for both in a Magic uniform.
Whilst a deal with Boston is seen by many as the front runner for both players, Denver, Portland and Phoenix are also seen as possible destinations. Gordon would provide additional defence in a starting role, whilst Fournier would provide shooting depth in a sixth man role.
THE MAGIC INJURY AND ABSENCE REPORT
As I write the injury report has not been updated on ESPN but as we have seen of late is fluid right up to tip off. That will be true of tonight as trade deadline approaches. Last night saw:
Terrence Ross (16 PPG) out with knee soreness.
Chasson Randle (5.7 PPG) absent with a groin issue but was listed as day-to-day.
Mo Bamba (4.6 PPG) was absent with a toe issue, again being day-to-day.
Cole Anthony (11 PPG) remains out with a non-displaced rib fracture. He is said not to be close to returning yet having only recently began light shooting practice.
Markelle Fultz (12.9 PPG) has a torn left knee ACL, a season finishing injury. He is now in the lengthy process of rehab following successful surgery.
Jonathan Isaac is out indefinitely recovering from knee surgery for a torn ACL.
THE MAGIC LINE-UP AS PHOENIX LANDS IN ORLANDO
The starting unit against Boston was Michael Carter-Williams (9 PPG), Evan Fournier (19.6 PPG), Aaron Gordon (14.6 PPG), Al-Farouq Aminu (5.4 PPG) and Nikola Vucevic (24.5 PPG).
From the bench came James Ennis III (7.5 PPG), Dwayne Bacon (9.9 PPG), Khem Birch (5.5 PPG), Chuma Okeke (4.4 PPG) and Gary Clark (3.4 PPG). Karim Mane (1 PPG) was available but did not play.
THE MAGIC NUMBERS
EASTERN CONFERENCE STANDING – 14th
SEASON RECORD – 14-29
HOME RECORD – 9-14
ROAD RECORD – 5-15
NBA OFFENSIVE RANK AND RATING – 27TH OF 30 (105.7)
NBA DEFENSIVE RANK AND RATING – 19TH OF 30 (112.7)
POINTS PER GAME – 29TH OF 30 (104.4)
OPPONENTS POINTS PER GAME – 14TH OF 30 (111.3)
RECORDS WHEN LEADING AND SCORING
RECORD LEADING AFTER THE FIRST QUARTER – 7-9
WHEN LEADING AT HALF TIME – 12-3
AND WHEN LEADING GOING INTO THE FOURTH QUARTER – 10-3
RECORD WHEN SCORING LESS THAN 100 POINTS – 1-18
WHEN SCORING 100 TO 109 POINTS – 4-7
WHEN SCORING 110 TO 119 POINTS OR MORE – 3-3
AND WHEN SCORING 120 POINTS OR MORE – 6-1
RECORDS FOR CONCEDING THIS SEASON
RECORD WHEN CONCEDING 100 POINTS OR LESS – 5-2
WHEN CONCEDING 100 TO 109 POINTS – 3-6
AND WHEN CONCEDING 110 TO 119 POINTS – 4-10
RECORD WHEN CONCEDING 120 POINTS OR MORE – 2-10
LEAST AND LARGEST ON THE SEASON
LARGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY – 20 – GAME DAY 7 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
LARGEST MARGIN OF DEFEAT – 42 – GAME DAY 9 HOUSTON ROCKETS
HIGHEST POINTS SCORED THIS SEASON – 130 – GAME DAY 2 WASHINGTON WIZARDS
LEAST POINTS SCORED THIS SEASON – 77 – GAME DAY 38 SAN ANTONIO SPURS
MOST POINTS CONCEDED THIS SEASON – 132 – GAME DAY 9 HOUSTON ROCKETS
LEAST POINTS CONCEDED THIS SEASON – 83 – GAME DAY 7 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
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KEYS TO THE GAME AS PHOENIX LANDS IN ORLANDO
As Phoenix lands in Orlando this is clearly a huge test for the Magic. We saw last night in part a distinct lack of effort and focus from the team. That was not the case for long periods in the second half. If Orlando show that later effort then they can give Phoenix a game.
If this is to be Aaron Gordon’s and Evan Fournier’s final game for Orlando I hope both go out with effort.
In facing Phoenix tonight Orlando have to find defensive intensity and discipline. The ball will be moved by Phoenix so focus will be required.
Phoenix have talent to spare. The signing of Chris Paul has pushed this team to another level. Devin Booker is an elite scorer, ably supported by Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton.
Statistics were again proven right in Boston and against Denver as Orlando scored less than 100 points and lost for the 18th time this season. Nikola Vucevic needs help from others to take the scoring to a level that gives us a chance to compete. However at this time our offence is most effective when it is run through him.
As previously said the team can not afford to get into foul trouble. Whilst turnovers remain at a low rate for the NBA it is the type of turnover that has been hurting Orlando. They must limit live ball turnovers, these are seeing harmful points being scored from our own offensive possession. In many recent games this failing has been costly and was again true last night.
If Orlando fail to put in the effort this one could be very ugly!
KEY DATES IN THE NBA
Nine consecutive losses left Orlando adrift in the standings. It is not fun watching the team losing consistently. It is part of the reason so many of us are looking to the trade deadline and beyond. Orlando still has the 4th worst record in the NBA, so have a 12.5% chance of landing the number 1 draft pick when the lottery comes. The tough second half of the season is well underway. Being 5 games back of Indiana in 10th now makes it hard to see Orlando competing for the post season.
The dates to look for as the season progresses are:
Tomorrow, March 25th is the NBA’s Trade Deadline.
The regular season ends May 16th.
The Play-In tournament is May 18th and 21st.
From May 22nd to July 22nd the NBA Playoffs are scheduled to run.
There is not a date set for the Draft Lottery. The 2021 NBA Draft will be held on Wednesday November 18th.