The Phoenix Suns nearly scored their fewest points of the season and couldn't hold the home court despite Markieff Morris' great all around game of 18 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

The Phoenix Suns didn't show any intensity at all until the final two minutes of the game. Even when you're playing a team that hasn't won on the road against a Western team in 20 tries, you can't do that and hope to win.

The Orlando Magic completely froze up in the second half, but the Suns appeared to not even care for most of it. First, the Magic had only 8 field goals versus 5 turnovers in the third quarter, but still held an 11-point lead after three. Then, they had five field goals to eight turnovers in the fourth but still had a three point lead with a minute left.

But then Orlando got a big bucket (on three+ steps) by Nikola Vucevic that so incensed coach Hornacek that he got called for a technical that allowed Orlando to score three points on that possession and double their lead again.

The Suns played so badly that a Magic team with as many turnovers than field goals in the second half won the game.

The home team made it close at the end, but you just can't expect to keep getting way down on teams and come back to win. That's 3 losses in their last 4 games. Two of them to easily beatable teams.


First quarter

Isaiah Thomas was out once again with the ankle bruise, and Eric Bledsoe freelanced his way to two fouls in the first few minutes of the game so Goran Dragic was left to run the Suns show.

The game started with neither team playing any defense. Each team got to run the play they called to perfection. The score see-sawed back and forth, with the Magic leading 16-15 at the 5:49 mark.

Channing Frye started for Orando but did not take a shot in 6 minutes before being taken out so Orlando could go to a three-guard lineup. Still, the Magic made 2/3 of threes (Fournier and Harris). Fournier is shooting 43.8% on threes and Harris 38.9%. So why guard them right?

Anyway, the Suns didn't seem interested in stopping any kind of offense by the Magic. They only limited themselves to 27 points in the opening stanza (27-23 Magic).

Second quarter

The second quarter played out similar to the first with the Suns struggling to find themselves.

Then Gerald Green woke the whole crowd and the team with an awesome self-oop-dunk.

Of course, this woke up the Suns from their funk. They'd only scored 36 points to that point, halfway through the second quarter.


In fact, the Suns went into a total funk for the rest of the half. They kept dumping the ball into the half court for post ups and their players just aren't post up players. Sometimes going for the mismatch isn't the right thing to do.

The Magic finished the quarter ON AN 18-3 RUN to take a 52-39 lead.

13 turnovers (for 18 points surrendered). 38% shooting. 8 of 11 threes clanked.

The Magic had a 13 point lead at halftime without even playing well. You don't have to play well when your opponent can't score points.

The Suns had 39 points. THIRTY NINE POINTS!



Third quarter

Let's see if the Suns can make one of their comebacks.  (ignores visions of early 2012-13 season with all those 10+ point deficits)

The Magic started with a jumper, but then the Suns reeled off 8 straight points and looked a lot more like a winning team than at any point in the first half.

Luckily, this is the Magic who have lose 20 straight road games against the West.

But then the Suns got sloppy, missing four layups in the next few minutes and found themselves still down 8 with 4:00 left in the third quarter. With the Magic going small with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier sharing the court so much, it would have been nice to throw Isaiah Thomas out there with Bledsoe and Dragic for some shot making.

The quarter was ugly after that, with the Suns back in the mud on offense and Orlando coming back down to earth on that end too.

The Suns were still shooting just 36% after three and couldn't cut into the lead. Despite shooting 8 for 19 with 6 turnovers in the third quarter, the Orlando Magic still led by 11 after three quarters.

Fourth quarter

The fourth quarter started with Willie Green scoring on a breakaway and Elfrid Payton driving into consecutive shooting fouls to give the Magic a 16-point lead. That's a 13-4 run now for the Magic after the Suns had cut the lead to 6 late in the third.

35% shooting now, at the 10 minute mark of the fourth.

62 points on the board with 8 minutes left.

The Suns lowest scoring game of this season has been 88 points on November 19 at Detroit, when they won by 2.

The Suns scored as low as 86 points twice in 2013-14, and fewer than 90 in 6 games.

They scored as low as 69 points in the 2012-13 season. They had 21 games under 90 points in that season. Ugly.

With 6:19 left, the Suns "cut" the Magic lead to 11. I swear the Magic are just sitting there waiting for the bomb to drop from the Suns and the Suns are just shrugging their shoulders.

The Suns finally woke up with about a minute left and got a few offensive rebounds on one possession to cut the lead to six. Then they cut it to three, 83-80 and it looked like the Suns might be able to prevail.

To that point, the Magic had 13 second-half field goals vs. 13 turnovers, scoring only 31 second half points in 23 minutes. Yet they had the lead.

Nikola Vucevic walked right into a successful post up, drawing the ire of coach Hornacek to draw a technical foul and suddenly what was a 3-point deficit was back up to 6.

And that's all she wrote.


Maybe it was a slight travel beforehand, but Gerald Green‘s self-alley-oop was still pretty sneaky. Gerald Green throws it off the backboard against Magic - Valley of the Suns - Valley of the...

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Time: 6 p.m. MST TV: FSA After getting annihilated 122-97 on the second night of back-to back games against the Denver Nuggets (8-8), the Phoenix Suns (10-7) return home to take a struggling Orlando...

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Here's a Q and A on Channing Frye with Zach Oliver of the SB Nation partner Orland Pinstriped Post. Channing had a knee issue in training camp and did not play any games with the team until after the season had started.

Let's check out how Channing is doing with the Magic, ahead of tonight's tilt between the Magic and the Suns.


Bright Side: 1) How has Channing fit in with the Magic? Looks like he's playing a lot of PF minutes as a stretch 4. He's shooting a career-high rate of threes (64% of all his shots) and converting a lot of them (42%) but his points per 36 are a career low (under 10). How come he's not more a part of the offense?

Zach Oliver: Channing's fit with the team has been interesting so far. He missed all of training camp and preseason with an MCL sprain, and I think it really put him, and his teammates, behind. They seem to lack a certain level of chemistry out there at times, and certainly that can be attributed to the missed time.

As for him not scoring as much... I think it's part of building chemistry, and also part of the team not really running plays that can fit his game. He's so deadly in the pick-and-pop game, but they haven't really used him a lot there.

I wrote a little bit about him, and how the team needed to get him more involved after Wednesday night's game against the Golden State Warriors. With more time, and hopefully better health for the team, they can find a way to get Channing more involved, because when he's on, and the team is finding him, the offense is at it's best, as we saw against the Detroit Pistons a few weeks ago.

2) Has Channing been a good leader in the locker room? He was a quiet leader that helped the young Suns a year ago stay even-keeled all year. Has he been the same on Orlando?

I think so. We really haven't seen him really "coaching up" any of the younger guys following games, but I imagine he's been helping them behind the scenes quite a bit. He has been vocal about things this season, however, which I think could be a good thing for the team. Channing and Tobias Harris are also cousins, so I think that, if anyone, Channing's impact has been big with Tobias, who's playing some of the best basketball of his career to start the season.

3) He was quoted recently of being "tired of losing" after only about 10 games. Was that just to light a fire? Or does he seem frustrated?

Probably a mix of both. There's been a bit of frustration in the locker room from a handful of guys recently, so it's clear they're all pretty frustrated with their play. In that piece I linked previously, I talked some about Evan Fournier talking about the team playing "selfish" basketball, and it's shown out there.

Channing has been frustrated some, be it with him play or the way things are going so far. After one of his first few games, he said he needed more shots, and he got those shots for a few games, but hasn't gotten those consistently. He also talked about how he needed to rebounded better, and he has for a few games, but I'd imagine it isn't where he wants it to be on a per game basis.

This West coast trip for them is going to be big. We're going to really learn who they are, and maybe the frustration will seep out even more and light a fire under them. They've been playing some uninspiring basketball of late, so we'll see if guys comments are really taken to heart or not.

4) Channing was an okay post defender with the Suns, something few teams and fans really knew about him that really helped solidify his role in the lineup beyond just threes. Has that been evident in Orlando?

No, not really. Channing has really struggled in a lot of aspects this season, most notably rebounding consistently and defensively. He's been abused more often than not, and it's been frustrating for many to watch.

He's been playing a ton as you alluded to in the first question, but has been put in some positions where he hasn't been successful. On Friday night, David West had his way with him on the boards and scoring the ball. Over the course of the season, I would imagine things will even out, but right now, it's been a struggle for Channing defensively.

5) In the small sample size so far this season, has the deal for Channing been worth it?

Right now, I would lean on the side of no. The way he's been used in the offense hasn't fully allowed him to show his real worth, and that's one of the biggest problems as to why he hasn't fulfilled the shoes that contract came with. And that's not his fault by any means, but his lackluster defense and below average rebounding hurts him quite a bit.

Over time I believe the deal will prove to be a good one once the team has good chemistry, and things are going smoother. Now, that might be next season, especially if the team ends up with a new head coach, but, it'll prove it's worth. It just needs time.


Thanks for the feedback, Zach!

You can follow Zach Oliver on twitter at @ZachOliverNBA. Zach writes for our SB Nation partner Orlando Pinstriped Post and contributes to Thunder Obsessed.

The Phoenix Suns need a win at home against a young, struggling Orlando Magic team. New Suns starter Markieff Morris faces off against the guy he backed up last season, Channing Frye.

Tonight the Phoenix Suns face Channing Frye and the Orlando Magic (7:00 6:00 pm AZ time on FoxSports Arizona (TV) and ArizonaSports 98.7 (radio)). The Magic feature 6 of their top 7 players being 24 or younger around Frye (31) as their only veteran influence playing more than 16 minutes per game.

The Suns were blown out in their last game, but have won 5 of their last 7 overall (six of which were road games) and return home for a couple of rare home games during this stretch of 22 of 31 on the road through the holidays. The Suns need to take care of business at home when they get the chance.

The Magic

The Orlando Magic have started the season 6-12, and their major free agent signing to help them develop a winning attitude sees first hand how extreme youth can be unpredictable.

"It was a dangerous time, I don't know, how many losses ago,'' Channing Frye said after the Pacers loss on Friday night dropped them to 6-12. "We want to get better. That sense of urgency should start to get in people's guts now and we've just got to pick it up. We did some good things, but we can't have lulls and we're not good enough to completely (mess) up the third quarter like that, especially against a good team with veterans.''

Magic are facing a tough road schedule themselves, in the middle of a season-high six game trip through some tough teams. Working against the Magic is their youth, but unlike Philadelphia the front office has a strong desire to develop a winning culture and has provided the team with enough talent to compete in every game. They have veterans on the bench and in the locker room - Frye, Willie Green, Luke Ridnour and Ben Gordon - who can show the kids how to be professional.

Elfrid Payton - their youngest rotation player at age 20 - is not starting lately but is having a productive season with 6.6 points and 5 assists per game, but shooting only 38% from the field. He's exactly how he was billed coming out of college - a good prospect who cannot shoot straight.

Last year's prize pick, Victor Oladipo, is a bigger, shooting-guard version of Payton who can do a little bit of everything but struggles to shoot well consistently. This year's prize pick, Aaron Gordon, is out due to injury.

The Magic's two best players this season are Tobias Harris (22) and Nikola Vucevic (24). Vucevic, signed to a long-term deal this offseason, is a load under the basket on both offense and defense but does not protect the rim nor does he have the quick feet to actively defend the pick-and-roll staple that's prevalent in NBA game plans.

The Suns

Can you guess what question is asked most often of the Phoenix Suns in the first month of the season? My guess is either "Can I get an interview with Isaiah Thomas?" or "Hey Isaiah, what do you think about your playing time?"

The latest reporter to publish an exclusive quote from Isaiah about his role on the Suns is Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. The interview likely took place last week when the Suns were in town to play to Celtics.

"My teammates are good guys, the organization is great, and the style of play is perfect," Thomas said. "It's a big reason why I chose here because it favors my strengths, getting up and down, scoring and shooting at will, and using our strength, which is our guards."

Thomas has missed the last two Suns games (the team went 1-1) with an ankle bruise suffered on a three-point attempt in the closing minute of the Toronto game. Two days later, coach Jeff Hornacek was clearly still peeved that Thomas was called for an offensive foul there despite being hit hard in the chest and landing awkwardly on the ankle as a result. Suns beat writer Paul Coro reported yesterday from practice that Thomas played half-court and walked off limping. His status for today's game is "game time decision".

One bright spot of the blowout loss to Denver on Saturday night was the Suns' chance to play all four of their kiddies at once. Early in the fourth, before Alex Len was taken out for Shavlik Randolph, the Suns had Len (21), T.J. Warren (21), Archie Goodwin (20) and Tyler Ennis (20) on the court together with Anthony Tolliver. The kids were all fairly productive but looked admittedly ragged in execution because they don't get much time out there together.

The Suns are last in the league in free throws allowed per field goal attempt. It's as if the Suns can't stand the idea of only giving up two points on a possession. The Suns have put the opponent on the free throw line for 30+ FTs in 10 of 17 games (going 5-5 in those games), while going 5-2 in games they held opponents under 30 FT attempts.

"We've got to stop taking the dumb fouls," Markieff Morris said to Paul Coro after practice yesterday. "Sometimes, we've got to just let them have buckets and not just foul."

Coach Hornacek says it's all about being a step late on contesting the shot, which allows the opponent to begin the shooting motion before the defender arrives. He joked the other night that at least the Suns are trying to be aggressive, as opposed to the times they just stand there.

Last year's Suns-Magic series

The Suns swept last year's series, winning 104-96 in Orlando and 109-93 at home.

The early-season win in Orlando was without Bledsoe (shin) while Goran Dragic had a monster 23 points and 13 assists in only 33 minutes of play. Channing Frye made only 2 of 9 three-point shots on the way to 14 points.

In the home game on March 19, Dragic again had a good game (18 points, 6 assists in 33 minutes) but no one else in the Suns rotation played more than 25 minutes in the blowout win. Eric Bledsoe was good all-around (7 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists in 25 minutes).

For the Magic, Arron Afflalo (now with the Nuggets) was very good in both games. Tobias Harris was good in the spring game, with 23 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench in 32 minutes but really the Magic were no contest to the Suns last season.

How they compare




Key Matchup

The most interesting matchup in this game is Markieff Morris vs. Channing Frye. Frye started every game last year while Markieff Morris came off the bench and put up better numbers (13 and 6 vs. 11 and 5) in fewer minutes. But Frye is deadly in terms of pulling a big man way out of the paint, while Morris has not been as successful in that regard because he's not making (or even taking) his threes enough to command the attention.

But the matchup that will decide the game is whether the Magic's leading scorer and rebounder Nikola Vucevic completely dominates the paint or not. If the Suns are focused, Plumlee and Len can hold their own. But if they lay an egg like they did against Jonas Valencuinas last Monday, the Suns will have a tough time.

Another interesting matchup will be the hyper-athletic backcourt of Oladipo and Payton against the Suns' Dragic and Bledsoe. Payton comes off the bench, but they will share the court on occasion unless Fournier has a great game (which he might).

Out on a limb

Markieff Morris was uncharacteristically bad on Friday night against Denver, but the Morris has been the Suns' most consistent player this season and will likely have extra motivation to prove himself against the guy who took his starting job last year. Frye will get threes up, but Morris will have the better all-around game.

Final Prediction

The Suns are just a better basketball team and they are embarrassed by their awful showing against Denver on Friday night. Expect the Suns to come out with a ton of energy and put make this game more about the matchups than the final score. The Magic just don't have the offensive weapons to compete over 48 minutes for the win on the road.

Suns by 15.

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