Preview: Phoenix Suns (6-5) at Orlando Magic (7-3)

Magic 105, Suns 89



If a “soft” Chris Bosh exposed the Phoenix Suns for 35 points on 12-for-17 shooting, imagine what “Superman” Dwight Howard will do to Phoenix’s pushover front line.

One night after being blown out of South Beach by the Heat, the center-less Suns take on Howard and the Orlando Magic in what has to be one of the toughest back-to-backs in the NBA.

It would be easy to think that Phoenix is in good shape because the Suns starters got some rest in the blowout and they’re in search of a bounce-back game in the worst way. But that’s far from reality. Here are three factors that make this a matchup nightmare for the Suns:

1. Orlando’s size

The Magic are one of the NBA’s biggest squads with a ton of depth down low — the polar opposite of the Suns. Howard could have himself a Kevin Love-like night with Channing Frye trying to hold his own against the 6-foot-11, 265-pound monster.

Although he’s averaging 21.5 points per game this season, Howard isn’t usually seen as a huge threat in the post. But the Suns have been abused in the paint all season long and if Superman gets good position early it’s going to be a long night for the Suns.

The Magic also have depth behind Howard, with Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass coming off the bench. Rashard Lewis is also a fairly big body. Although he’s thin, he could still back down Hedo Turkoglu and deliver with a turnaround or fadeaway that he has in his arsenal.

“We’re the only team in the league that prepares to play Phoenix by playing all big guys,” head coach Stan Van Gundy told The Associated Press. “They play small and we’re playing all big cause that’s all we got.”

That size will play a factor in the rebounding department more than anywhere. The Magic lead the NBA with a +6.7 rebound differential (44.44 to 37.7) while the Suns rank dead last in the league with a -6.3 rebound differential (40.5 to 45.8).

2. Nash’s health

UPDATE: Nash out against Orlando

According to a Paul Coro tweet, Steve Nash will be held out of the Orlando game tonight with a groin strain, making Goran Dragic the starter. Nash clearly wasn’t 100 percent against Miami, as he didn’t collect an assist the entire first half and finished the game with two.

Considering all the Suns have working against them anyway, this is probably the right move by Alvin Gentry. While Dragic isn’t Nash, he’s still a capable starter and it will be interesting to see how he can handle the starting role on the road against a team like the Magic.

Dragic will be facing one of the NBA’s stingiest defenses. Orlando ranks second in points allowed per game (90.8) and fifth in point differential (+7.1). Their defense starts with Howard, who averages 2.8 blocks per game, but luckily for the Suns, they don’t rely all that much on interior scoring anyway.

If Phoenix hopes to compete against the Magic defense, they need another night of three-point accuracy similar to the Laker win that saw 22 triples fall. Replicating that is unlikely, but the Suns need the three-pointers to fall to have a chance.

On the bright side, the Magic haven’t really beaten anyone all that impressive this season, losing to the Heat by 16 and the Jazz by 10, but beating the Hawks (one of the best opponents they’ve faced) by four.

3. Back-to-back

Are you tired of hearing about the importance of back-to-backs? Probably. But is it still worth noting? Of course, especially considering the Magic haven’t played since Monday, while the Suns will be playing their fifth game in the last eight days. For a team that relies so much on shooting and playing up-tempo, tired legs don’t equal success for the Suns.

Side note: After playing five seasons in Orlando and leading them to the NBA Finals in 2008, it will be interesting to see the reception Hedo Turkoglu gets from the Orlando crowd. Turkoglu’s probably had this game circled on his calendar and it will be interesting to see if he can return to Orlando form in a Suns uniform.

  • Zak

    I’m still optimistic about tonight’s game. The Suns live or die by how their three’s fall which certainly isn’t good but that also leaves the door open for every game. I’d love to see a more balanced game from the Suns but with the talent they have it’s still live or die by the 3 this year. Not enough for a championship unless they get VERY lucky.

  • Mel.

    I’d honestly just let Dragic take the lead on this game. Nash needs the rest, the odds say that the Magic are going to stomp our guys with length and size, so why not just give the night over to Turk, Dragon and the secondary crew?

    If anybody’s going to make some noise and give us a fighting chance, it’s going to come from the bench. I know Steve’s mentality is that he’s failing the franchise if he doesn’t play through a broken nose, groin pull or the loss of a few toes, but seriously… he’s done enough, and pushing for redemption after the Heat loss is NOT going to help his recovery time.

  • gilbert

    hoping nash can go but if not goran can man the 1 while grant hill might have to exit early in the 1st Q and come in later on once goran needs a breather. We just got to knock down shots. We had our shots against the heat and once we went cold the avalanche just snow balled. Of course I worry about rebounds but we also need to take care of the ball. Too many turnovers yesterday.

    Here’s hoping for a great night of suns basketball. Of course i’ll be tuned in. I’m predicting Hedo is gonna go off tonight. Back at home, even though it is a new arena. Take care suns fans. #gosuns

  • Mel.

    Hey, apparently Gentry and/or Nash reads the comments on this site… good. I look forward to seeing Goran do work. When the apprentice shows up and realizes that he’s got the keys to the offense, it can be something amazing.