So much for that bad team from January being permanently in the rear-view mirror. Tonight the Suns' starters barely showed up, and the Orlando Magic rolled to one of their easiest victories of the season, a 103-93 victory that was not nearly as close as the final score appeared.
The Suns allowed one-man-wrecking crew Dwight Howard to dominate the paint for 28 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks while AT THE SAME TIME leaving shooter Ryan Anderson open for 7 "made" 3-pointers, 2 driving layups and 2 stupid "and-3" fouls.
How do you give up both of those worst-case outcomes in the same game? Maybe it's from playing 6 games in only 8 days. In the last 2 games, both losses, the Suns starters scored only 18 points and 14 points respectively in the second halves. That's not just one guy with 18 and 14 second-half points in two games. That's the whole starting unit of the Suns' 5 best players doing this!
That's not gonna get it done.
On the bright side? Robin Lopez collected 14 points and 8 boards in only 22 minutes. Sebastian Telfair played well again, with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. And Shannon Brown had 10 points as well. They, along with the other benchies, pulled the game within 11 points late in the fourth, forcing the Magic to put their starters back in to seal the win.
Or they just need to pull something out of their whatsits.
Come on Suns! Play hard!
Two former Suns face off against one former Magic. Who will prevail?
The Suns' loss to the HEAT last night was frustrating for all of us, but most likely for the Suns' players more than any fan watching from his couch. The Suns went 7 minutes without a point - six of those with all the starters back on the court, the same starters who lead the NBA in plus/minus while on the court together - while the HEAT turned a 90-80 deficit into a 97-90 lead.
Some would say that the HEAT finally started playing hard and turned the game around on their own terms. Some would say the Suns tightened up and/or turned the game back over to players who just didn't play their best games of the season. Either way, a 17-0 run is a 17-0 run. Game over.
The big question today is: How will the Suns respond tonight against the inconsistent Orlando Magic?
The Suns could decide that last night's loss was worth avenging against the next opponent, regardless of the quality of that team. The Suns could come out with an iron will, a laser focus, and drag out a win no matter how well the Magic play.
Or, the Suns could come into tonight's game with a rattled confidence, crossing their fingers and hoping the Magic will just roll over and give the Suns a win they don't necessarily deserve. While it's certainly possible that the enigmatic Magic will do just that, it's not a proper game plan for a Suns team fighting to make the playoffs.
Which Suns effort will pervade against the Magic?
I am betting on the former. The Suns will be pissed at themselves for losing the game to the HEAT. They will play the game like Rocky Balboa fought Ivan Drago in Rocky 5. They take the body blows from Howard's rebounds and inside play. They will shake off the 3s dropped by Anderson, Richardson and Turkoglu.
And they will prevail with a furious 4th quarter, started by the resurgent bench and ended with emphatic play by Gortat (against his former nemesis in practice), Nash, Hill, Dudley and Frye.