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Game preview: Suns look to find their rhythm in Orlando against the Magic

What: Phoenix Suns (51-13) against Orlando Magic (16-49)

When: 5:00 p.m. AZ time

Or: Amway Center

Watch: Bally Sports Arizona

Listen: 98.7FM

DraftKings betting line: The Phoenix The Suns are 6.5 point favorites against the Magic, with an over/under at 222.5


Less than four weeks ago, the Suns hosted the Orlando Magic and quickly beat them by 27 for their fifth straight win. Orlando briefly led for the first three minutes of the game before falling behind and never recovering, as the Suns’ All-Star backcourt of Devin Booker and Chris Paul tore through the Orlando defense.

Booker led the team with 26 points, and while Paul struggled on the court and finished with just 10 points, he had 15 of the team’s 40 assists, the first time a team from the Suns reached 40 assists in a game without overtime. since 2009. The Suns had nine players scoring 10+ points, and the team shot 52.4% from the field in one of the Suns’ most complete performances all season.

Unfortunately, a lot has changed for the Suns since their last game against the Magic on Feb. 12. With such a small roster, the Suns will need everyone on deck and shooting to get the sweep of the season.


Likely starters

suns

  • PG – Cam Payne
  • SG – Landry Shamet
  • SF – Mikal Bridges
  • PF – Jae Crowder
  • C – Deandre Ayton

Magic

  • PG – Cole Anthony
  • SG – RJ Hampton
  • SF – Franz Wagner
  • PF- Wendell Carter Jr.
  • C – Mo Bamba

Suns report

Suns will remain shorthanded, as Cam Johnson (right quad contusion) and Booker (COVID-19 health and safety protocols) continue on injury report with Chris Paul (wrist), Frank Kaminsky (knee) and Dario Saric (knee).

Phoenix is ​​coming off a hard-fought loss at Milwaukee on Sunday, 132-122. In the second rematch of last year’s NBA Finals, the teams traded heads 19 times as they both played with something to prove. But the lack of star power caught up with Phoenix late in the game, as they simply couldn’t execute on offense. The Suns went 0-4 from the field with two turnovers and scored just one point in the final 3 minutes of Sunday’s game.

Deandre Ayton carried the charge offensively, posting a season-high 30 points on 14-19 from the field, including 1-1 of three. With the team still missing some of its key scorers, Ayton will once again have to be aggressive to break down and crumble the Orlando defense. Because Orlando ranks sixth in points allowed in the paint, they also rank 28th in opponent 3PT%.

A solid inside-out approach was key to the Suns’ victory over the Magic last time out. In that game, Phoenix beat Orlando 68-36 in points in the paint and also shot 15/34 from beyond the arc.

magic report

The Magic are expecting the return of their starting forward, Wendell Carter Jr., who has missed the last two games with an illness unrelated to COVID. The 22-year-old big man was removed from the Magic’s injury report on Monday and is expected to return straight to the starting lineup, with Chuma Okeke returning to the bench. Carter Jr. continued his solid development in Orlando this season, posting career highs in points (14.3), rebounds (10.4) and three-pointers (1.1 per game on 32.3%).

Magic rookie shooting guard Jalen Suggs missed practice Monday as he continues to recover from a twisted right ankle he suffered in their win over the Toronto Raptors on March 4. Gonzaga’s fifth draft pick missed Saturday’s game at Memphis, a 124-96 loss to the Grizzlies. Suggs remains doubtful for the game against Phoenix.

Despite going 3-2 since the All-Star break, the Magic are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, wading through player development hell with the Detroit Pistons.

One of the few bright spots of the season was the play of second-year Magic point guard Cole Anthony. The former Tar Heel leads the team in scoring and assisting with 17.4 points and 5.7 assists per game, while also grabbing 5.7 rebounds per game, the third most on the team.

Rookie forward Franz Wagner has also been a pleasant surprise for the Magic this season, as the 6’10” University of Michigan forward easily transitioned to the NBA. The eighth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft is averaging 15.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3 assists per game, on 46.9% from the field and 37.2% from downtown.

But perhaps the most impressive stat: Wagner is averaging just 1.6 turnovers in 31.8 minutes per game and he’s played in all 65 games this season. Only 32 players in the league average less than 2 turnovers while playing more than 30 minutes per game, and only two of them are also rookies: Scottie Barnes of Toronto and Herbert Jones of New Orleans.


My prediction

Phoenix should walk away with the win semi-comfortably. Orlando will keep things close early, might even take a lead if Carter Jr. is fully fit and the Magic can control Ayton on the inside. But I expect the Suns offense to wear down the Magic and pull away at some point in the second half.


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