When: November 4th, 4:00 p.m. MST

Where: Amway Center, Orlando FL

Watch: Locally: FSNAZ; Outside AZ: NBA League Pass

After squeaking past the Pistons on Friday night, the Suns face a Magic team that is without Dwight Howard and a team that could end up being the worst team in the Eastern Conference. Although the game against Detroit didn't look necessarily clean, Phoenix still managed to hold on to their lead and get the win. The positive: Suns had five players in double figures, which is exactly the kind of effort they will have to produce in Orlando. The negative: Jared Dudley only had two points and besides Shannon Brown, the bench was almost nonexistent.

This game marks the beginning of three-game road trip on the East Coast against Orlando, Miami, and Charlotte. The Magic are coming into Sunday's game with some momentum after an impressive 102-89 win against the Denver Nuggets. The Suns can not take the Magic lightly and definitely need to take care of business against a team that has less talent on paper.

Key Match-ups:

Goran Dragic vs. Jameer Nelson - This matchup is clearly in favor of the Suns. Dragic has looked as good as advertised so far as the floor general in Phoenix and has put up good numbers in his first two games of the season. Nelson, on the other hand, has always seemed to be one of those third-tier point guard talents. Dragic should get the better of Nelson in this matchup on both sides of the court.

Luis Scola and Marcin Gortat vs. Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic - For the sake of Orlando, who doesn't really own a Center, I'll just say the match-up is the Bigs of the Suns against the Bigs of the Magic. Anyway you want to say it, the Suns should be favored in the size department for this game. Gortat has looked like the double-double machine he can be so far and Scola has been the efficient post presence the Suns need him to be. Glen Davis had an impressive season opener, putting up 29 points and 10 rebounds against Denver, so Phoenix will have to keep Davis from controlling the paint.

Michael Beasley vs. Hedo Turkoglu - Can I call this one a push? Maybe a slight edge for Beasley? I think it's still too early to say that Beasley be that consistant scorer that the Suns need him to be. Now if you would have asked me who had the edge four years ago, it would have been Turkey-Glue, mainly because Beasley was a rookie then. If I had to call it, I'd say Beasley gets the better of Hedo and contributes significantly.

The Suns Bench vs. The Magic's Bench - This match-up will ultimately decide the outcome of this game. If J.J. Redick and the rest of Orlando's bench heat up and knock down their shots, the Magic will be tough to beat. If Shannon Brown and Wesley Johnson are on point, the Suns will win the game. I think it's obvious that bench production in crucial for both teams if they want the win.

The Bottom Line: The Suns should win this game. They hold advantages in almost every match-up and are clearly the more talented team on paper. We know in the NBA that any team can be beaten on any given night, but I would be of the surprised majority if Orlando came out on top in this one.


After two games, the Phoenix Suns offense is sputtering. Their offensive efficiency of 94.2 points per 100 possessions is 28th of 30 teams, their points per game (88.5) is at 27th. Ugh. And that was on two home games to open the season, before a three-game road trip that begins today.

Compare these results to prior Suns teams who were top-10 in offensive efficiency for the past 8 years and it's no wonder you've got scores of hand-wringing fans cringing at what they are witnessing from these Suns. Why deviate from a dominating offense to something that few fans have ever heard of, the 'corner' offense, they ask.

The most efficient shots on the floor are in the painted area (inside 10 feet) and outside the three-point line (outside 23 feet, worth 3 points). The least efficient shot is the mid-range two-pointer. Yet the 'corner' offense appears to feature a lot of weird spacing and mid-range two-point shots. Why wouldn't the Suns go back to their bread and butter, the pick-and-roll? Marcin Gortat was one of the best finishers in the game last season.

"I play a lot of pick and rolls with Marcin. He is diving under the basket and Luis is coming up (popping out to the mid-range area) and his guy is taking Marcin. The open available pass was on that midrange shot for Luis. It's really hard for the defense to recover."

On those plays, so far so good. Dragic, power forward Luis Scola, and Marcin Gortat are killing it (121, 119 and 106 efficiency ratings, respectively), while the peripheral shooters are struggling mightily to start the season.

The problems occur when those three guys aren't taking the shots. And for everyone else on the team, their shots just aren't falling yet.

Jared Dudley's career low efficiency rating (including 1.5 years in Charlotte) was 115 points per 100 possessions. After two games, he is currently sitting at 76. A career three-point shooter over 40%, he has made only 11% (1-9) so far this year. His career-low shooting percentage is .459, and last year as one of the focal points of the weak side offense it was .485. Yet it's only .333 this year.

Dudley always been a smart, steady offensive player. He's not prone to long slumps, just as he won't go off for 30 points. Expect his numbers to rise back to the norm pretty soon.

Jermaine O'Neal, Markieff Morris and Michael Beasley have been terrible on offense as well. All will improve, though none will lead the team in offensive efficiency. They just need to be passable.

Even those who are down on Michael Beasley must agree that he will improve. The big thing for him so far is making shots. Prior to this season, his lowest shooting percentage was .445. After two games, it's .333. As inefficient as his offensive game appears, since he loves mid-range 2-point shots, he has always been about 100 points per 100 possessions. Not great, but not terrible either. And if he keeps shooting closer to the basket, it will get even better than that. After two games this season? It's only 87.

Asked how he feels in this new 'corner' offense, you get the feeling those numbers will improve dramatically.

"It's easy," he said. "When you got a guy like Dragic coming of the screen as aggressive and crafty as he is, Scola rolling, there's really no room for a double team."

Is he uneasy in his new role on the Suns?

"No, no, I just missed shots."

Then he dropped the serious expression and quipped, "Somebody just need to move the rim over a little bit."

Beasley mentioned the word 'aggressive' several times in a matter of minutes. He knows what's expected of him.

"This team is going to be successful if I'm aggressive," he said in a tone of self-awareness that's been consistent all fall. "While that might not be the case all the time, it's got to be the majority of the time."

Dragic feels the same way. "He has to be aggressive. He penetrated a couple of times, he made a layup, then it's much easier for us and for him. He's a great player."

Beasley gave credit to his head coach, who sat him in the fourth quarter of game one because he wasn't showing enough aggression on the court. By contrast, in game two he gave a lot more effort, and hence got more playing time. "It just shows he's a man of his word."

This new offense might not be as pretty as their old one, but one guy in particular doesn't want the Suns to rely on a single offensive scheme for the whole game no matter how pretty it is.

"We've got to find a way to do more, different stuff," Luis Scola said with earnest, "If we play (pick and roll) every play, sooner or later, they are going to adjust. They are going to find a way to stop that. If you play that as a part of the system, if you mix it up, that's when you can be really effective out there."

Scola knows that you need to scrap and claw and fight for everything. "When you don't do those things, that's when they get the 50/50 balls, they get the offensive rebounds, they get the calls. There's a lot of karma in the game."

The offense will get better. It has to. The three primary players are playing quite efficiently. It's the secondary and tertiary options who are struggling to make easy shots.

Can the Suns continue to win this way, if things don't get better on offense? Can they win with scrappy play and defensive intensity?

"That's a good question," Dragic answered. "We are solid, play good defense. We are creating open shots, just our shot is not looking good right now. We need JD's points. Usually he makes those shots. Maybe we still need a little bit more time, but we are going to be good."

The shooters just have to make open shots. Even in that terrible fourth quarter in game one, the shots were open. Guys just missed them.

Once the shot-making improves, expect the offense to look a lot prettier. And if you can combine that with scrappy play and solid defense, you've got yourself a good basketball team.

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Suns fans ask me what's to like about this team. There's no bankable superstar, no rim-rattling dunks, no symphony of offensive genius. The old days of 'free tacos' for scoring more than 99 points will be few and far between.

Retail outlets don't know whose jersey will sell this season and they have not yet put in any orders. There's a minimum quota (just under 200 at a time) that not one player's name is guaranteed to sell out this season.

The arena was disappointingly empty at the start of the game. That's not a sea of purple jerseys, my friends. Those dark spots are not dark T-shirts.


Yet, I find myself liking this Suns team a lot better than the version that took the court the last couple of seasons. And that "empty" stadium agrees with me. I heard more cheering as the game went on than I heard most of last season.

This team has a collective hustle and scrappiness, from the starting unit all the way down to the last guy (with only one minor exception). And according to Luis Scola, that has to be their rubber stamp all season long.

"There's only one way to win games and that's playing focused for forty-eight minutes and play hard and hustle and do all the little things," he said after a game in which he led a second quarter effort that turned an 11-point deficit into an 8-point halftime lead.

"It's not going to be pretty a lot of times," he warned. "But that's just the way it has to be."

The Scola Factor

Scola previously played five seasons as starting power forward with the Houston Rockets, never suffering a losing season once he became their best player. He also played a starring role on his Argentina National Team for the last 32 seasons (or so). He knows how to win games.

In two games with the Suns, Scola is averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds and setting a great example for his teammates with hustle play after hustle play. Deride the man all you want for his lack of vertical, but don't disparage his ability to lead a team to victory.

Scola was the first starter to return in the second quarter when the Suns were down big again and made his own stamp on the game. In the final 7:29 of the quarter, Scola had 11 points, 2 rebounds and a steal, keying a 17-point turnaround from 9 points down to 8 points up. Tayshawn Prince knew what happened.

"I think for us, the second quarter was the difference," he said. "I think that was the most disturbing part (being down 8 at halftime) because we played so well early."

Brown Out

But even with Scola's impact on the second quarter, it got dicey again in the fourth. This time, Shannon Brown turned around a forgettable early game with a sizzling 10-point fourth quarter on an array of drives and contested jump shots.. Alvin Gentry is a man of his word - he who played well, plays a lot. Brown played all 12 minutes of the period.

Brown got it going with a couple of sweet, crowd-raising drives to the hoop - a mantra that Gentry says will make a difference to the team this season. He says they need an inside presence, but that doesn't mean just the big guys. The guards and wings have to get to the hoop as well.


Michael Beasley had his best regular season game (of two) with the Suns. Like Brown, he got it going with drives to the hoop. He was positively Melo-like with double putback attempts on a missed initial drive in the first half. In all, he finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds and was periodically tenacious. His ability to finish at the rim with either hand is impressive, and brought the crowd to their feet a few times.

The Dragon and the Hammer

The Suns two best all-around players in this game were Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat, who each finished with a double-double. Dragic was the best player on the entire court all night with 15 points on 10 shots, along with 10 assists that could have been 13-15 assists if open shots would have fallen. Gortat sucked up rebounds (16), blocked shots (3) and ran a nice pick-and-roll with Dragic on top of his own post moves (16 points on 7-13 shooting).

But the key to their games was their defense. Dragic worked over the Pistons point guards, and Gortat held Monroe to 5-17 shooting on shots mostly inside the paint.


Last night marked only the third time in the Suns' 45-year history that they held their first two opponents under 90 points, and the first time since 2003. In fact, it's the first time since 2004 that the first two opponents were even held under 100.

The Suns have won 13 of their last 16 "game twos".

This was the 9th time in the last 10 opportunities to win game two after losing game one. The Suns have been 1-1 26 times in 45 seasons.

The Suns were on track to hold their first two opponents under 40% shooting for the first time in 30 years, until the Pistons mounted a late rally. For the game, the Pistons finished with a 41.1% shooting.

Now the Suns head out to a 3-game roadie against Orlando (best player is JJ Reddick), Miami (LeBron) and Charlotte (?).

Final - 11.2.2012 1 2 3 4 Total
Detroit Pistons 28 18 17 26 89
Phoenix Suns 24 30 17 21 92

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