Phoenix Suns 109, Orlando Magic 93 -- The cure-all

PHOENIX – Jeff Hornacek thought a promising win at Toronto two games ago was the building block for the Phoenix Suns to kick up some dust in chasing down the Memphis Grizzlies and Dallas Mavericks for a final playoff spot. Forty-eight minutes later against Brooklyn, allowing 58.6 percent shooting slapped that notion back in Hornacek’s face.

Back home after a three-game road trip on Wednesday, the Suns took advantage of a lowly Orlando Magic team to roll 109-93 thanks to, firstly, being in the game in the third quarter, and secondly, separating with a back-breaking run spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter.

With Orlando leading 75-74, a duo of Marcus Morris three-pointers in the final 1:16 of the third quarter sparked what would become a 23-3 run over the next 5:30. But the more important part of the game was being right with the Magic in the first place.

Phoenix’s defense didn’t start off well, and an offense trying to integrate Eric Bledsoe didn’t look willing to attack without the transition game being handed to it on a platter.

The Suns’ defense did tighten the screws as the game wore on, and it eventually broke the game at U.S. Airways Center open.

Orlando is by no means an offensive juggernaut, but it finished the game shooting at 40 percent.

It also was encouraging for Hornacek’s crew that Bledsoe came out in the second half looking more engaged and more willing to probe the Magic defense to set up his teammates. The result was Goran Dragic leading a balanced attack with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting to go with six assists by mostly playing off the ball.

Bledsoe finished with seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. He did doll out six assists and picked up three Orlando turnovers.

On to the three keys points provided by Jeff Sanders in our game preview.

Do the Suns come out with the first punch?

Phoenix found itself tied with Orlando 25-all after the first half while giving up 50 percent shooting. Once again, the Suns were sluggish on both ends of the court but it helped they were facing an offensively-deficient Magic team.

But the Suns did doll out the first punch in the second half, scoring seven straight in the first 1:32 to go ahead 59-52. The Magic closed the gap for a little but, at least until just more than a minute remained in the third quarter.

Does Bledsoe push the ball more?

Bledsoe manning the point guard role looked similarly to how it was before his Dec. 31 injury. In short, the Suns couldn’t get into a rhythm and didn’t push the ball off misses – to be fair, there weren’t a ton of opportunities with the questionable defense. The Suns began to create some separate with a second unit manned by Ish Smith. No surprises there.

Bledsoe and Dragic returned in the second quarter and finally got into a groove. Bledsoe didn’t necessarily push it in transition every time, but he did put more pressure on the defense. Looking to keep multiple defenders’ attention in general led to open opportunities for his teammates, and Miles Plumlee and Dragic benefitted the most.

How do the young guys play?

Len and Goodwin were part of the bench unit that outplayed Orlando. Len started it off with a turnaround jump shot over his right shoulder, and a few plays later, ball denial to Markieff Morris in the post led to an entry pass hitting Len atop the foul stripe. The rookie center touch-passed it to Morris, who was still being fronted in the post and drew the foul.

The rookie scored five points each in the first half before closing a game that suddenly became a blowout in the fourth quarter.

Len finished with nine points and five rebounds on 4-for-5 shooting. Goodwin scored four and added a steal, two assists and a block.

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