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The Phoenix Suns defense against J.J. Reddick was terrible in this game, be it leaving him open for a three-pointer (he made four of the them, was fouled in the act on another) or allowing him to drive into the lane and pass off for uncontested layups to his big men. Really poor defense all around.

Orlando even tried to collapse in the third quarter, with the Suns taking a five-point lead and looking healthy, when the home team hit yet another dry spell and really never recovered. Bad offensive sets, hero-ball three-point attempts and otherwise wild shots doomed the Suns.

The sparse crowd really wanted something to get excited about - an offensive rebound by Telfair and good drives to the hoop by Dudley and Gortat. They made some noise, for sure.

But when the loudest cheers in the arena were for a four-year old National Anthem singer (really good singer, to be fair), your team is not very exciting to watch. The Suns now have the league's longest streak of game scoring less than 100 points.

We love the Suns, but we can apply some tough love sometimes. And these guys need some tough love.

Shannon Brown scored 17 points, while Jared Dudley added 15. Not enough guys stepped up with Dragic out sick and PJ Tucker not there to provide hustle.

The game started with the Suns on a 6-game losing streak, facing a fairly empty arena and a fairly young Orlando team that had blown the Suns out just four weeks ago in the sunshine state.

To make matters worse, the Suns best player - PG Goran Dragic (flu) - and their best energy guy off the bench - P.J. Tucker (knee) - were scratched from the lineup.

But lest you fear the Suns were facing insurmountable odds, let's reset reality. The Orlando Magic were just 7-12 on the season, no more wins on their season docket than the home team itself.

And the Suns were playing at home, generally the difference-maker for two similarly-talented teams.

At tipoff, the game was a tossup.

The Suns started strong to take a 15-6 early lead, but the Magic started making their shots while the Suns started missing theirs and the first quarter ended much closer than we might have guessed - 23-20, still in favor of the Suns.

The second quarter, featuring seldom-used Wes Johnson and Diante Garrett along with just-demoted Micheal Beasley was a relative disaster. No one knew who was doing what and when they weren't going to do it. After an okay start, the Magic took control as the Suns dissolved. The starters recovered a bit to bring the Suns back to only a 5-point deficit at 48-53 at half.

J.J. Reddick finished the half with 17 points, 13 of them on four 3-pointers, and four free throws off being fouled on 3s by Wesley Johnson.

The Suns regained their composure in the second half while the Magic lost theirs, taking their own 5-point lead in the first seven minutes of the second half. But again when the second unit came in, led by Garrett, Scola and Beasley came in, the Suns defense became a sieve and Orlando scored at will again. At the end of the quarter, Orlando had retaken a one-point lead.

This second unit started poorly in the fourth, allowing the Magic to take a 5-point lead several times in the first three minutes.

Then Telfair, Dudley, Morris and Brown joined Jermaine O'Neal to try to right their ship against an Orlando team that really shouldn't be winning a road game.

For more, visit Orlando Pinstriped Post.


Final - 12.9.2012 1 2 3 4 Total
Orlando Magic 20 33 18 27 98
Phoenix Suns 23 25 22 20 90

Complete Coverage >



20121208_gav_sv5_011

The Phoenix Suns need a win. We already know that this season is not going to be a pretty one and we know that the Suns don't have the talent to make a playoff run, but seven losses in a row would be tough to watch. While hosting the Orlando Magic, the Suns have a perfect chance to get a win at home and provide some much needed relief to fans around the Valley.

Where: US Airways Center in Phoenix, AZ

When: 6:00 pm MST

Watch: FSNAZ; NBA League Pass

Key Match-Ups:

Goran Dragic vs Jameer Nelson: I give a slight edge to The Dragon in this one folks, keyword: slight. Dragic and Nelson are both averaging 6.5 assists per game, but Dragic holds the edge in points per game with 15.5 over Nelson's 13.7. Both of these players put up similar numbers, so I would not be surprised if either has the better night, but throw me in the optimistic bunch who think that Dragic will have a decent night against Nelson.

Shannon Brown vs Arron Afflalo: Afflalo has been a mystery to me. In late November, Brooklyn absolutely shuts him down to 5 points on 2-10 shooting and then he drops 30 on the Lakers in his next game. He clearly has scoring ability and has the touch to hit outside shots. I give Afflalo the advantage over Brown. Brown has been playing about as expected since joining the starting the lineup, but he certainly hasn't been anything spectacular. I expect Brown to have a decent night, but for Afflalo to get the best of Brown in the contest.

The Suns' Bigs vs The Magic's Bigs: Markieff Morris has been a pleasant surprise in the starting lineup, but he will have his hands full against Orlando with Glen Davis. Davis is averaging 16.2 points per game and is hauling in 8.6 rebounds every game as well. The key to Morris' night will be rebounding. He will have to keep Davis from getting easy second-chance opportunities if the Suns want to keep "Big Baby" in check. Marcin Gortat has been struggling in the past couple of weeks and is constantly being brought up in trade rumors. Going up against Nikola Vucevic will give Gortat a chance to have a bounce back game, but don't expect one good game to end discussions of Gortat being shipped out of Phoenix. Would I be crazy to say this match-up is a push?

Final Breakdown: I honestly have no idea who will win this game. Neither team would surprise me by winning. If the Suns win, they end their six-game losing skid and if the Magic win, well...good for them, they now have eight wins. This game is a showcase of mediocrity that won't have many ramifications on either team's season. My advice: enjoy Sunday with your family/loved ones, watch football, catch highlights of Saturday night's great showcase of fights (Congrats to Glendale's Benson Henderson for retaining the UFC Lightweight Championship), or do something productive. If none of the previously stated endeavors suit you and you want to watch a painfully average NBA game, feel free to tune in to FSNAZ or NBA League Pass to catch the Phoenix Suns play the Orlando Magic.

Orlando Magic 98, Phoenix Suns 90 Looking to avoid their first seven-game losing streak in nine years, the Phoenix Suns catch a break Sunday against the Orlando Magic. Jacque Vaughn’s team...

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20121208_gav_sv5_043

It's really difficult to put together a top ten list when the team is spiraling downward and has rattled off six straight losses. For the week, the Suns went 0-4...and while they did show some fight, especially against the Knicks and the Grizzlies, the fact remains, they lost.

So here it is...the best of the worst!


1. Shannon Brown

Weekly Average: 17 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 31 minutes of play; -6

Most of the starters had at least one good game this week...followed by bad ones. Brown was the only Suns starter to score double digits in each of the four games. Brown consistently plays with energy and effort, and although his defense is certainly lacking, he's at least trying. That's good for Brown....and good enough to earn the top spot for the week. But if Brown is the model of consistency for your team, uh-oh.

2. Luis Scola

Weekly Average: 14 points, 9 rebounds, and 1 assists in 27 minutes of play; +1

Scola had another really good week coming off the bench, with the exception of yesterday's game against the Clippers. Scola is still very one dimensional, but that dimension is at least something that he does very well. Morris was moved to the starting job in part due to what he can provide on the defensive end...color me unimpressed thus far. Scola has been playing like the better power forward for the second straight week.

3. Goran Dragic

Weekly Average: 13 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals in 27 minutes of play; -10

Dragic should be at the top spot every week. He's without a doubt the best player of the team, but he's been struggling a bit lately. The team as a whole has certainly been struggling as well, so it's hard to know what's causing it. Dragic would certainly have more assists if he had some reliable shooters around him to knock down shots.

4. Jared Dudley

Weekly Average: 12 points, 2 assists, and 1 rebounds in 26 minutes of play; +2

Dudley continued to do much better in his role off the bench, but Beasley was playing abhorrently as a starter, so Gentry moved J.D. back into the starting lineup. Although it was only one game, Beasley actually played great in his first benching, and while Dudley also played fairly well, you get the feeling that he's just a better player on the second unit. He had another solid week overall, and is one of only a couple players to register a + for the week.

5. Jermaine O'Neal

Weekly Average: 6 points, 3 rebounds, and 1 Blocks in 16 minutes of play; -4

O'Neal only played in three games this week and was hobbled by a strained quad for the others. He didn't have a great week by the numbers, but we now have a pretty good idea of what to expect from him. The problem is he is not meant to play big minutes...He's better in a limited role. Gortat is simply not getting it done right now though, and it's causing the Suns to rely on O'Neal more than they should.

6. Markieff Morris

Weekly Average: 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, in 23 minutes of play; -9

Morris had a better week, at least offensively. He had one really great game on the boards against the Mavericks, but the others have been just...meh. The biggest issue I'm seeing with Morris is his defense. The supposed hard-nosed Philly kid has been playing like anything but on the court. I'm not sure if it's technique or effort, but Markieff certainly has the tools to do much better.

7. Sebastian Telfair

Weekly Average: 6 points, 2 assists, and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes of play; +1

Bassy on played in three games this week while dealing with a death in the family. In the other three games, Telfair had an up and down performance. His worst game was yesterday's game against the Clippers in which he went 0-4 from the field and netted only 1 assist in 22 minutes of play (Why didn't Garrett get a shot?). I think Bassy will bounce back this week though...He plays with heart which is more than I can say for some of the others.

8. Marcin Gortat

Weekly Average: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 blocks in 31 minutes of play; - 6

Oh Gortat...why? The Polish machine started out the week with two really good games against the Knicks and the Grizzlies, but then fell apart completely against the Mavs and the Clippers. I don't know if it's a mental thing or a conditioning thing...or maybe an attitude thing? Whatever it is, the Suns have no chance if Gortat isn't playing well.

9.Michael Beasley

Weekly Average: 9 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists in 25 minutes of play; -9

Beasley was a complete disaster this week before being moved to the second unit...Then he suddenly springs back to life as the best player in a Suns uni registering 25 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds off the bench against the Clippers. Don't get too excited though. Beasley hasn't shown he can play with any consistency whatsoever this season...His other three games this week were enough to bury him at the 9th spot this week.

10. P.J. Tucker

Weekly Average: 6 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assists in 21 minutes of play; -4

I'm not sure what happened with Tucker. He has had two very average to below average weeks in a row. Just when the fans thought we had struck gold with a guy that would come in and change the game with his hustle and energy, he has failed to make an impact...with the exception of a nice comeback effort against the Knicks. The Suns don't need Tucker to be a scorer...but he needs to find a way to get his hands on those offensive boards and shut down his man on defense...which is what made him the instant fan favorite he became. I think Tucker is trying though, so hopefully this will be the last week PJ is listed at the bottom of the rankings.

So there you have it. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments below!

20121001_mjr_su5_031

When Alvin Gentry walked into the postgame press conference following the loss to Dallas Thursday night, I anticipated the worst. Between the low muttering and the frog in his throat, I thought I was at a funeral.

Then, he surprised me by starting with "we're not dead in the water yet, guys." Okay, that was a nice start. But I was sure some heated words for his guys were sure to follow. None ever came.....and they should have.

Gentry is a holdover from the Mike D'Antoni days...when the plan was to just push the ball downcourt no matter how good or bad things were going. Increased pace and energy would surely solve any problem. Alvin shares a lot of the same coaching style of his predecessor, which includes self-deprecating jokes and refusing to criticize his players in the media.

Being around the coach the other night, and also in training camp, he carries himself as a very serious and demanding person away from the mic. I don't know what's said behind closed doors, but it appears that there's little confrontation going on.

I think a lot of the current Phoenix Suns could use some 'tough love' right about now.

First up? Michael Beasley. When Beez subbed out 4 minutes into the 2nd half Thursday night, I expected some fierce words from Gentry. At the least, maybe a cold shoulder. No, Alvin actually gave him a tap on the hip as he strolled by. I guess just breaking a sweat is good enough in coach's book these days. Somebody tell him that I can still hit a 'J'.

Back to Michael, he didn't return that game and his starting spot at SF is all but gone (not that he cares). After the game, Gentry was asked if Beasley's play was hurting the team. His response was "I wouldn't say that." Translation: 'it IS but I don't want to go there.' Beasley isn't the only one.

There are a few other guys who need a fire to be lit under them. Markieff Morris may just be the most physically-gifted Suns. But his lack of aggression (and a go-to offensive move) have him relegated to 'rim-protector guy' when Scola is out there. Elton Brand guarded Morris down the stretch Thursday, a size and athleticism mismatch. Markieff on just half the energy should've had his way inside and off of the dribble. Instead, Elton was so bored with Morris that he asked Brandan Wright to switch so that he could guard a real player, Luis.

Watching the Suns in the tunnel pregame, I saw a lot of frivolity from some guys who should quite frankly be dead serious. Wesley Johnson appears to think that his benching is a coaching decision and not a reflection of his abilities. Beasley, meanwhile, spent the bulk of his energy pregame racing an usher to the locker room.

It wasn't all jokes and pranks.....Marcin Gortat was focused and stretching while Luis Scola was organizing the guys into a huddle. P.J. Tucker, too, appeared to approach the game as an opportunity rather than an obligation. Jermaine O'neal was also intense before the tip. He carried that focus all the way into a near ejection after chasing Zack Zarba downcourt after a bad call.

Now that I think about it, Coach Igor (Kokoskov) was so stoic in warm-ups that I had a hard timing just getting him to crack a smile. I had to go deep in my bag of Serbian one-liners.

Alvin Gentry had this to say about the loss on national TV: "We compete and play hard like crazy but we have to be smarter." Well, unless the team plans on going back to college to boost their collective IQ, I think a swift kick in the 'asterisk' is what this group really needs short-term.

The harshest words from coach following the Mavs game was actually his criticism of the gatorade flavor chosen by his PR people. That kind of humor should be reserved for victories, only, Alvin.

{Follow me on Twitter: @ NBAKnez}

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