Orlando Magic 115, Phoenix Suns 94 -- Snowball beatdown

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.

Finding themselves

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.

Marshall debuts

With a blowout going, Gentry gave rookie point guard Kendall Marshall just over a minute of playing time. He did not record any stats.

  • David

    I think it is of note that gentry made absolutely zero adjustments while the game spun out of control. Not to mention he’s afraid to play anyone more than 36 minutes even if they’re needed on the floor.

  • ShanMan

    What a mess of a second half. I was only watching the boxscore at work wondering what on Earth was going on.

  • phxsunsfaninla

    @David exactly what I was thinking. And what’s up with jmz’s jumper?

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Lit up by JJ Redick ? oh man….

    from previous article….agree with KayGee that Suns should go after Eric Bledsoe if at all possible…..Bledsoe has serious game.

  • bill.thomas

    At this point, picking up Sonny Weems would improve the situation.

  • JZ

    Gentry start Brown and make Dudley come off the bench until he gets his groove back. This was just embarrassing. How did this team give up 40 points in the third to a Magic team without Dwight Howard? Suns bench is just as bad as or worse than the Lakers. At least the Lakers obliterated a Pistons team that the suns struggle to beat 2 days ago!!! Suns bench needs to STEP UP.

  • Russell

    The Suns can not start Brown! he is going to shoot 3 for 13 5 out every 6 games…in fact he should have never been resigned. Mayo was available and the suns simply did not put in the effort to sign mayo.

    In regards to Dudley I agree, Dudley plays better at the 3, he is not a 2. Since the 3 is taken he would actually be better off the bench and provide some punch.

    The bottom line is the Suns need a starting 2 guard bad! neither Dudley or Brown should be starting at the 2.

  • Melon Head

    Dudley has been a real dud so far. He’s killin’ me in fantasy basketball and he’s not doind much for the Suns in real life. I agree with throwing him on the bench. I strongly believe Gentry won’t be back next year and its kind of sad because I like him but over the last couple of years I think we’ve all seen him fail to make adjustments when they’re obviously needed.

  • bill.thomas

    I’m telling you, Sonny Weems is not a bad option here.

  • Luka

    I’d say give Wesley Johnson a chance to start, and let’s quit settling for so many jump shots.

    The bench is pitiful right now. Dudley might get the 2nd unit going.

  • Scott

    Well, I hoped for better, but it’s probably fair to say that this is what it looks like for the first few games after a team (Phoenix) gets rid of their long established leaders and relies instead upon younger untested leadership, along with many new faces.

    It will get better. The players probably have a good sense of what’s going wrong, but they need to go through it anyway to develop their chemistry.

    Orlando, BTW, is a team that has a few players I’d wanted the Suns to take if the opportunity presented itself. I mentioned Moore earlier, and I think it’s fantastic for him that he’s able to play PG as well as SG. The Suns could have had him CHEAP.

    Vucevic was another one. I first targeted him deep in the 2nd round of draft prospects, believing he was seriously undervalued. He moved up a lot in the draft, and it looks like he’s still developing potential. A better pick than Robin Lopez, I’d say.

    O’Quinn’s another cheap but high IQ role player that I thought the Suns might get. And though Harkless is still on the bench recovering from injury, I still think he might have a considerable upside to his career.

    Orlando may have lost Howard, but they’re trading and drafting pretty well.

  • Scott

    As for Dudley … I guess he’s pressing too hard to make his shots because he’s now a team leader.

    Did you see how both his free throws barely hit the rim? He’s too deep in his head. He needs to go back to being himself, and not try to be Grant Hill.

  • DBreezy

    Well that was truly interesting to watch! Big picture, I’m not concerned with how the players handle this, but with how the organization does. While it is early and things could definitely get better as Scott just said, they may not-at least not in the W/L department.

    No matter what the outcome is, things aren’t likely to turn anytime soon. IMO, the Charlotte game this week is the easiest one they’ll have until they play these same Magic at home on Dec 9th in the second game of an away/home b2b. Ignoring Orlando, they play 11 playoff squads in that stretch and 5 lottery squads who generally look to be improved year over year. Will the organization ride what could be a roller coaster or will there be panic and pressure? I can’t see much good coming from that for a team of guys heavily built on guys looking for redemption.

    As for the game itself, it showed a lot of things imo. The Suns aren’t presently as good as they think they are. In that 3rd quarter they looked like Apollo Creed did when he realized that he wasn’t that ‘scrub’ Rocky wasn’t going away. Gentry left his starters in longer to try and stem the tide, to no avail and it’s like the bench knew what that meant.

    JJ Redick was able to accomplish what I was concerned Rodney Stuckey would when they played Detroit. If teams play a quicker combo guard type at the 2, it’s a nightmare because Duds struggles with their speed and obviously Goran can’t guard both guards. The Magic took it a step further to something I hadn’t even thought of put a small at the 3 vs Beasley as well. They had big guys at the 4 and 5 to pressure what is a known Suns weakness inside and created havoc with the other guys. Duds and Brown aren’t good defenders and it’s hard enough to ask Beas to defend well against 3′s, but having him chase a 2 guard like Afflalo around is asking for trouble. That’s trouble with no answer as the Suns have no true 2 guards on their roster, and something we’re likely to see again in the future.

    Perhaps I missed it somewhere, but everything I’ve read so far about the Suns has failed to mention one thing. A team that prides itself on scoring being a big part of it’s game, is struggling to score. 4 of the 5 starters had solid games statistically and they still couldn’t put up 100 vs one of the weaker teams in the league. It’s hard to watch how crisp a less talented team like Orlando has been offensively in it’s first two games and not cast an eye over at Gentry. It’s not that I think that the Magic are better than the Suns, or will have a better record comes season’s end, because I don’t. But I can see and appreciate how well they’re coached, just like I could with Williams’ Hornets team both last season and this one.

    Buckle up, it’s going to be an interesting ride, especially for those with high expectations.

  • bill.thomas

    Jus thave a coffEe cake and a coffee and a beer or two aND EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE. nO ONE HAS TO WORK, THAT WOULD BE HERESEY.


  • DBreezy

    Mmmmm, coffee cake……,…

  • jones

    Keep in mind this is just game 3 of 82.

    So far the only O we seem to have established with any consistency/chemistry is Dragic/Scola.

    Dragic doesn’t create enough for the rest of the team. No easy baskets for others besides Scola and there is a lot of 1-on-1 basketball.

    Coach is also playing his bench a bit too much and not really establishing his starters enough for them to get great chemistry and rhythm.

    Perhaps replacing Dudley with Tucker/Wes with a focus on just D will also help to both solidify the starters and shore up the bench.

    At the very least though Gentry’s got to play the starters – Dragic/Beas/Gortat a minimum of 35 minutes each game. I’d even play them 40 until we’ve developed enough chemistry.

  • http://slapdoghoops.blogspot.com Slap Dog Hoops

    A rather disappointing showing–I realy expected the Suns to play better coming into this season. Luckily it is still early in the season and the Suns can bounce back. Hopefully, they will bounce back sooner than later.

  • dick lawler

    replace gentry..move dudley to reserve 2..bring johnson or brown up to the 2..run some plays for beasley..slow dragic down a bit..not too much dribbling ike nash..more comradre

  • Voqar

    That was kind of painful to watch. The game seemed to be going great…then not. Same problem the Suns have had forever.

    Morris needs to be sat down. Hoping he wakes up and does anything remotely useful in a game is killing the team. He showed some promise last season but jacking up long range shots and having his head up his ass makes him useless.

    Dudley needs to make some shots or do something dudely-like on defense – it’s like you don’t even notice he’s on the floor.

    Same old Suns in some ways. Play really well but fail to maintain it, fail to stomp on the opponent when you have them down, let a team come back, get all mopey and sad, start jacking up crap shots, get out of the flow, everything escalates and gets worse, then it’s an embarassing loss.

    Way too many stupid mistakes. Way too many bad shots.

    I do not like Beasely bringing the ball up the court because it mostly yields poor offense. So much better when the dragon initiates, even if it sometimes hits the beasely black hole.

    When the suns pass the ball, good things happen. When they hustle on defense, good things happen. But they SO easily deviate from that and one or the other or both devolve into total shit.

    IMO, when this ^ starts to happen, the coaches need to get a grip on the team. You can’t let your team lose a 15 point lead or get behind by 15 without a wake up call, without saying, hey morons, pass more, or hey morons, play D or sit down and someone else will play.

    This is a recurring problems with a lot of suns teams over the years and it seems to be a coaching or philosophy problem. They need to make these fools play or make them sit, and when someone like Morris is a walking disaster and killing you on every play with bad shots, dumb fouls, etc, get him the fuck out of the game.

    Dunno why I set the DVR for the miami game. Barring an unlikely mental collapse (of laughter) by the entire Miami team, the Suns are going to get summarily massacred. Suns don’t have a single player who can guard LeBronikins OR Wade. Doubt they can stop Bosh either, or whatever d-league corpse they have at center since Gortat only plays half of games.

  • Ty-Sun

    A very depressing loss. Lay the blame wherever you like but the Suns just collapsed during the 3rd quarter and gave the game away.

  • Elviro (Italy)

    we lack a guard !!!!!

  • Kevin Zimmerman

    Coro’s piece on Dudley today was really informative. It’s not that he’s playing so bad so much as he’s not getting open shots. He’s a catch-and-shoot kind of guy and nobody is finding him sitting on the weak side off the pick-and-rolls.

  • frenchysunsfan

    Brown should start, Dudley isn’t playing like a starter for the moment and he could be stronger coming off the bench.
    Morris must play much better, he should be our 6th man and a major threat.


  • Scott

    @Kevin -

    I’m not sure I buy that interpretation of Coro on Dudley. As Dudley’s weak, short, free throws last game attest, that may not be the only problem. From what I’ve seen, Dudley’s been missing his open shots, and he hasn’t been driving to the hoop for the and-one, either.

    If Dudley’s woes are a matter of the plays the coach designs / calls, or the PG he’s being paired with, then those are matters the coach is obligated to fix.