Phoenix may have went through a few too many series of ebbs and flows, but for the most part in a 104-96 road victory against the Orlando Magic, Jeff Hornacek’s team was in control. Even when Orlando got within three points in the final four minutes, it was the Suns’ game to lose.
They didn’t in their second road win in a row.
Goran Dragic led the Suns with 23 points and 13 assists and scored on a timely drive to the cup late in the fourth quarter. Then, he hit a step-back three after Magic center Nikola Vucevic switched onto him, the shot giving the Suns a 102-92 lead with just more than a minute to play.
Riding a strong bench effort late, Hornacek and the Suns couldn’t close the game without going back to Dragic and the starting unit.
The Magic cut a 14-point lead down to 88-83 with six minutes left, but Hornacek turned back to his starters and drew up a three-point shot atop the key for Channing Frye out of a timeout to turn the tide for a final and crucial time.
The Suns shot their season average of 37.9 percent from three-point range, connecting on 11-of-29 longballs, and in general, they’ve found their competence that seemed loss during the recent losing streak.
Ryan Weisert asked three questions in his game preview, and this is how they were answered.
Can the Suns keep the battle of the boards close?
Gang rebounding kept the Suns in fine shape rebounding against center Nikola Vucevic, who grabbed 10 boards on Sunday. Gerald Green grabbed eight rebounds as the starting shooting guard, Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee added seven rebounds apiece, and P.J. Tucker had six.
The biggest issue was Vucevic’s offensive output, and it wasn’t necessarily to any fault by Miles Plumlee or otherwise. The former USC Trojans big man scored 20 points on an efficient 10-for-16 shooting, but he did so by hitting 20-footers over Plumlee or by backing Plumlee down in the post to shoot over the smaller Suns center.
In the end, Phoenix won the rebounding battle 44-41 and grabbed 10 offensive rebounds to outscore the Magic in second-chance points 13-8.
Who will step up, once again, in Eric Bledsoe’s absence?
Dragic pulled his weight, but he wasn’t the only one. Phoenix’s effort looked like it did before the four-game losing streak that ended a game ago, and that meant Hornacek’s team was getting strong performances across the board.
Gerald Green brushed off a rough shooting night two days ago to score 20 points, but he also was engaged on the defensive end. While Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Andrew Nicholson scored in double-figures to help Vucevic, Green shadowed No. 2 pick Victor Oladipo most of the night and held the rookie to 3-for-12 shooting – and without any momentum-swinging plays.
Additionally, Frye got going in the second half – he scored nine of his 14 in the fourth – and hit a few big shots in his final stretch to hold the Magic off. And the Morris twins each contributed their fair share off the bench.
Can Phoenix find some paint scoring?
Not necessarily in the paint, but it didn’t mean the Phoenix frontcourt players didn’t produce.
Aside from another fine game from Frye and eight points from Plumlee, the big men did some damage. Marcus Morris may have gotten himself in trouble by going into Carmelo Anthony high-post isolation mode, but he earned it early on. He finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while brother Markieff scored 12 points to go with six boards. The twins combined for an efficient 13-for-24 from the floor.
The Suns lost the points-in-the-paint difference 50-42 but did get a lot of easy looks by score 18 fastbreak points to six for Orlando.