It would be easy to say that the Phoenix Suns’ 115-94 loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday was a sign that Alvin Gentry’s team is in trouble this season. Maybe that’s true. Still, it was easy to pinpoint the large, fixable problems that led to the Suns’ downfall in Florida.
Context matters. The Suns led by as many as 14 points at one point and the feel of the game was that Phoenix was one spurt from making it a laugher in its favor. After connecting on 36 percent of its shots at the half when Phoenix led 56-46, Orlando was shooting well below 40 percent even halfway through the third quarter.
Phoenix’s largest lead put them ahead 68-54 with eight minutes left in the third quarter with Luis Scola and Michael Beasley leading the way. They finished with 24 and 22 points, respectively.
But the wheels eventually came off. Glen Davis, Nikola Vucevic and Arron Afflalo combined for 32 of the Magics’ 40 third-quarter points and shots began falling. Orlando led 86-76 after the third to make it a 32-8 run, one quite similar to Phoenix’s own run on Friday against Detroit when the Suns held the Pistons to seven points in the final eight minutes of the second quarter.
The hot shooting snowballed on Phoenix. The Suns, as a whole, panicked in the face of adversity.
Marcin Gortat’s third strong performance in the shot-blocking department — the Suns blocked 10 shots total — was marred by getting outplayed in the second half by Davis and Vucevic, the second-year center. The former USC Trojan scored 18 and grabbed 13 rebounds, shooting 9-of-16 from the field. Gortat had 14 points and 11 rebounds to go with four blocks.
Goran Dragic showed the first signs that he has much room to grow, failing to control the flow of the game to corral his team. Phoenix responded to the Orlando spurt with quick, forced jumpers and little of the ball movement that earned them a 50 percent shooting clip in the first half.
Dragic finished with 12 points and eight assists.
The Suns ended the game with a 43 percent shooting clip to the Magics’ 49 percent — for those counting, that’s an increase of 13 percentage points thanks to the second half.
Phoenix hit just 5-of-19 three-point attempts while allowing Orlando to go 9-for-11.
Reserve guard J.J. Redick was one of the shooters that got open in coach Jacque Vaughn’s offense. He went for 24 points on just 14 shots. Starting point guard E’Twaun Moore, who played for the injured Jameer Nelson, hit all three of his longball attemps, as did Afflalo.
Afflalo and Davis led the scoring with 22. Davis got hot in the third quarter, connecting on 7-of-13 shots as the Suns continued to leave him unpestered from 18 to 20 feet out.
Overall, the result wasn’t anything more than what the Suns have displayed in the two other games. They’ve yet to play even close to a 48-minute game, and Sunday the Magic jumped on Phoenix once the Suns’ guard was down.
And for the first time, Phoenix failed in responding to being punched in the gut.
The outstanding question asks which of Dragic, Beasley or Gortat will be that player to keep his team level-headed and focused. At least, the Suns need one of them to do both of those things when things gets testy.
It got testy on Sunday, and Afflalo’s shoving of Scola when he was trapped in the corner told the tale of an Orlando team that, while not all that talented, has a player or two bringing the energy when his team most needs it.
Phoenix, meanwhile, is still searching for that.
Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Sebastian Telfair are on the list of players that still haven’t looked comfortable on the floor.
Dudley simply hasn’t been involved very much in the offensive sets, and perhaps that’s by design. Still, his offensive role is only as valuable as how dangerous he proves to be, and taking four shots and hitting only one isn’t exactly a way to earn value there.
Morris continued to struggle in every facet, jacking up off-kilter jump shots and turning the ball over. He also went 0-of-2 from the free throw line.
Telfair, while not playing poorly, still has yet to get the bench offense looking sharp, though it’s also a factor of Gentry’s continued changes to the rotations.
With a blowout going, Gentry gave rookie point guard Kendall Marshall just over a minute of playing time. He did not record any stats.