Pregame: What to Watch For, Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns
The Orlando Magic are heading way out west for a road trip. Getting off to a good start will be critical to their confidence going forward. Can the Magic keep the momentum rolling?
The Orlando Magic will face the Phoenix Suns in the first game of their road trip. After getting Elfrid Payton back in their last game, the Magic returned to form after a two-game skid. The chemistry and trust built over the last four seasons were evident during Payton’s absence.
Point Guard Battle
A key matchup tonight will be at the point guard position. Elfrid Payton made a triumphant return to the lineup on Tuesday. The Magic sorely missed Payton’s presence on both sides of the ball. His impact was felt right from the beginning with an alley-oop to Aaron Gordon to start the game. Phoenix is coping with the departure of Eric Bledsoe with rookie Mike James. James played overseas prior to this season and has held up well in place of Bledsoe. While James has held most of the point guard responsibilities, the Suns have also placed the ball in Devin Booker’s hands more often. With Booker as the Suns’ go-to guy, having him control the flow of the offense gives them more options. A balance of James and Booker running the offense for Phoenix should be expected. Also look for Elfrid Payton to get the Magic going early and often.
The Phoenix Suns are on a four-game losing streak and two in a row at home. The Suns have been in disarray this entire season. They started out 0-3 while also giving up over 120 points in each game. The Head Coach at the time, Earl Watson, was fired after the poor start. Around the same time as Watson’s dismissal the teams best player, Eric Bledsoe, made an unfortunate social media post. Bledsoe tweeted “I don’t wanna be here“, and was immediately removed from team activities. The Suns had a slight resurgence after this episode, going 4-1. The losing streak began and Bledsoe was finally traded this week. With the Bledsoe drama over, the Suns will look to right the ship. The Magic want to keep the streak alive and hand Phoenix their fifth straight loss.
Key to a Magic Victory
Three-point shots will be a major factor in the outcome of tonight’s game. The Orlando Magic are second in the league in three-point percentages (40.6%) and first in three-point percentage for their opponent (31.4%). During the two-game losing stretch, Orlando shot their worst percentages from deep and gave up their worst percentages as well. Phoenix has not been a great at converting behind the arch. They rank 22nd in the league shooting 34.2% from deep. The Suns rank 25th in the league for three-point percentage by opponents with 38.1%. For the Magic to pick up a win tonight they must capitalize on the three-point shot.