Orlando Magic 105, Phoenix Suns 89 — Embarrassment

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gVupEKr1Mo&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Playing their fifth game in seven days, without Steve Nash, against one of the NBA’s biggest teams, one night after being blown out in Miami, the Phoenix Suns were never expected to blow past the Magic Thursday night in Orlando.

But even the Nash-less Suns have enough talent to at least put up a fight against Dwight Howard and company. That talent never translated, however, as the lifeless Suns looked like a JV team against the Magic on their way to an embarrassing 105-89 loss in which Orlando led by as many as 32. Phoenix was dominated offensively, defensively and everything in between.

The Suns’ depleted and soft front line was again exposed as Howard went off for 20 points and 12 rebounds on 8-of-9 shooting in only 30 minutes. Double teams meant nothing to Superman, as he skied above Suns defenders, catching alley-oops or drop-stepping for easy dunks.

Phoenix played some of the worst defense it had all season, with the Magic getting everything they wanted at any time in the shot clock resulting in 54.7 percent shooting from the field and 10-of-25 from distance.

The Suns were expected to struggle against the Magic front line. But where they could have showed some life is offensively. This was a perfect chance for Goran Dragic to prove he’s ready to start in this league and for Hedo Turkoglu to flourish as a playmaker.

But neither Dragic nor Turkoglu stepped up. Although he finished with 10 points, four boards and four assists, Dragic looked scared in the first quarter, committing five of the Suns’ seven turnovers first-quarter turnovers as they trailed 31-15 after one.

Turkoglu, who was cheered by Orlando fans, was an even bigger disappointment against his former team. He settled for fadeaway jumpers and finished with more turnovers (three) than points (two) by way of 0-of-8 shooting from the field and 0-of-5 from three.

When the Suns acquired him they expected Turkoglu to be a point-forward who creates for himself and others. The only thing that was supposedly stopping him so far this season was Nash dominating the ball. But with Nash in street clothes, Hedo was still a ghost, taking bad shots, lacking aggression and remaining a liability on the defensive end.

The entire Suns offense looked lost without Nash, further reminding Suns fans how Two Time truly is the engine that makes this offense run. They turned the ball over 18 times, resulting in 24 points for the Magic. Phoenix also shot only 45.6 percent from the field and 3-of-18 from three to score a season-low 89 points.

“Can they play without Dwight (Howard)? Can the Lakers play without Kobe? He’s our Kobe. He’s our Dwight. He’s the engine that makes the car go,” head coach Alvin Gentry said of Nash. “But, we’ve still got to do a better job of competing. We can’t turn the ball over seven times in the first quarter. We’ve got to be able to get shots at the basket. We didn’t do that.”

Jason Richardson, who had been playing like one of the best two-guards in the league, suffered most without Nash spoon feeding him wide open triples. J-Rich scored a season-low seven points on 3-of-7 shooting.

But J-Rich wasn’t alone, as none of the starters played well outside of Grant Hill, who once again proved age is not a factor, racking up 21 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Although he was booed by the Magic fans, Hill was the only Sun to show any sort of life from start to finish.

This game was over before it even began, however. The Magic dominated the first quarter and gave the Suns no chance for a comeback, as they held a dominating 51-29 lead with 3:53 left in the first half. Jameer Nelson (15 points, 12 assists), knifed through the Phoenix defense and the Suns had no answer.

Phoenix looked like it was in preseason mode and Orlando continued to pound it down the Suns’ throats, going for the knockout blow before halftime. The Suns showed a little life early in the second half, but by that point the deficit was too large and it was garbage time for the scrubs soon enough.

It’s hard to put too much value in the embarrassing loss due to Phoenix’s tired legs and Nash’s absence. The Suns also went 2-2 on their brutal four-game swing against the Lakers, Nuggets, Heat and Magic, which Gentry will take any day.

But there are still a ton of glaring weaknesses that the Suns can’t shoot their way out of. Although they ended up only losing the battle of the boards 37-34, they made up a lot of those in mop-up duty and were manhandled on the glass for most of the game.

Someone needs to emerge as a threat down low or the Suns will never be able to maintain a consistent winning streak, as you can only make so many threes.

Again, this was an expected loss before the game even started and the Suns will take a .500 record against four very good teams. But with two more road games in the next four days, the Suns need to tighten the screws and buckle down defensively and on the boards if they want to remain a consistent threat in the Western Conference.

And 1

For the first time all season Earl Clark showed some life. Although it was in garbage time, Clark scored 12 points and grabbed six boards on 5-of-9 shooting. The Suns need anyone with size who can contribute and Clark’s aggressiveness was a great sign for the Suns. “It was an opportunity for me to go out there and play some minutes,” Clark said. “That is what I have been wanting so I just played as hard as I could mainly on the defensive end. I know I have a lot of guys including former All-Stars and they can put the ball in the basket, but we need help defensively and that is what I tried to do.” … Ilan Shamos is the winner of Phoenix Suns cufflinks after winning the tiebreaker round of our giveaway. Shamos thought the Suns would lose the rebounding battle by eight (they lost by three), which was closer than Eddie Kurtz’ second-place guess of -11. Congratulations Ilan. …The NBA also announced Thursday that the Suns have five players on the 2010-11 All-Star ballot. It happens to be the starting lineup the Suns started the season with, as Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu and Robin Lopez all made the ballot.

  • infotalk

    Where are all the things Hedo was supposed to do .. create off the dribble, assist others ?

    JR looks good because of Nash …

    Dragic has lost some confidence as Alvin has been taking away the ball from him and giving to Hedo in last few games.

  • infotalk

    If Earl had developed, we wouldn’t have got childress or hedo … Damn that idiot. He could have had the position sealed off when amare left and he didnt work hard enough .. He has such an athletic body …

  • KJ Loyalist

    Dragon will be fine. Hedo is the problem. Two-fold as he is bad on his own and he’s taking minutes away from Dragon as Gentry tries to figure Hedo out.

    I also wonder if Dragon is a bit weaker after the world championships.

    Curious though, if Mike or Michael read this, Oden is all but done in Portland. What are the chances of the warlocks figuring out his body and the Suns getting the big man they need who can play next to Dragon and even RoLo going into the post-Nash era?

    • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

      @KJ Loyalist et al I’d be all for picking up Oden in a buy low situation. If anybody can revitalize him it would be the warlocks, and God knows the Suns desperately crave an interior presence. It will be interesting to see if Portland gives up on him or feels they have invested this much so why not go more. Any kind of long term deal obviously would be risky, but there’s still so much potential upside to him I think it would be worth it.

      Yeah, Clark was real nice in this one. Now let’s see if he could do it before garbage time. I don’t like the Suns not picking up his third-year option because of how much potential the guy has.

  • Mel.

    ^Schwartzy and I were discussing this in the Daily Dime during the game (Since, hell… there wasn’t much else worth discussing.), and came to a similar conclusion.

    Sweetening the potential deal is the fact that Oden will probably have the stigma of a liability, which might make him a steal, or at least cheap enough to pick up as a project. It’s an interesting notion, though I have to admit that watching the Hedo Project has soured me a bit on the idea of trying to revitalize careers in Phoenix; the only way I’d be all-in is if we managed to pawn Earl off on Portland NOW, while they’re in the panic rut. :D

  • iceman

    I hope you mean Earl Barron because Clark is one of those players that if he gets time on the court will make you hate yourself for not playing him. He didn’t just look good out there last night, he was dominating.

  • Mirza

    Ok I wouldnt say dominating but certainly this is a guy who just never got the minutes he needs to show what he can do. Too many bad shots this kid takes over and over. As for Greg Oden in a Suns system running up and down?? Ummm yea thx but no thx.

  • Achorman

    Booing Grant Hill? He must’ve been injured on purpose his entire stint with the Magic. You stay classy Orlando.

  • Steve

    Grant didn’t do it on purpose, but he screwed Orlando pretty bad. How much did the pay him? and did he even average over 25 games per season? Orlando was terrible for half a decade because of Hill. It wasn’t on purpose, but it was still him who did it.

  • http://audreyandchuck.com audreyandchuck

    Thanks for the video. If NBA League pass blacks it out, I’ve missed the last two games. Even if your videos were longer, they would be appreciated.

  • Kyle S

    See- I told you guys (back in the should Nash be traded to rebuild posts) that Dragic was not fully prepared to assume starting roles.

    This is only one game against a very good team during a loooong week but it says alot. Dragic shouldn’t be “tired” as he’s been playing less than 20 mins/game. He’s good and getting better but not ready yet. All the more reason to keep Nash and stay competitive short term.

  • Mike Meez

    So embarrassing, it’s a shame this is the Phoenix Suns that the East Coast gets to see and not the team that beat the Lakers and Nuggets. Oh well. I remember last year the Suns got killed in Orlando early in the season and later beat the Magic in Phoenix I believe.

    Dragic may or may not be ready to take the reins, but no matter when Nash leaves/retires/etc. there is going to be some adjustment time for the Dragon. He played well last year when Nash was injured in a road victory at OKC so I have confidence he’ll make it as a starter.