Orlando at Phoenix
Time: 8 PM CT (NBA League Pass)
Spread: ORL -3.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The 7-4 Orlando Magic sit No. 3 in the Eastern Conferences as it begins its West Coast trip in Phoenix Friday night at 8 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass. The Magic are 3.5-point favorites in Phoenix, where the Suns have posted a 2-4 mark this season. The Over/under is set at 204 points, and Orlando averages 109.3 points per game while surrendering 105.6.
Orlando has won six of its past 10 games and is 3-2 on the road this season. The Magic most recently ended its two-game skid with a 112-99 win over the New York Knicks. Kristaps Porzingis did not play due to multiple injuries, and the Magic were a step ahead of New York the entire night. The Magic got 68 points from its starting frontcourt of Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Nik Vucevic. Elfrid Payton returned to the starting lineup with 11 points and 11 assists while posting a +20 mark for his 29 minutes of court time.
Former Spurs forward Jonathon Simmons came off the bench to score 16 on 6 of 10 shooting, and the Magic seem to have the real components of an actual, good team. Frank Vogel stuck around after a tough 16-17 season, and it appears to be paying off as he is helping his team gel into a real basketball team that has tangible strengths, weaknesses— and an identity.
The Magic are a team built around dynamic game changers like Gordon and Simmons, with the proper shooting outlets (Fournier, Vucevic) to bring it all together into a tough offense that averages nearly 110 points per game. The Magic may lack a standout performer, or it may not— not with Fournier appearing to be all of that at times. He hit the game-winning shot over the Memphis Grizzlies, and his shooting is plenty clutch.
It may just be we all underestimated what Orlando really had going on with several emergent talents not yet in their respective primes. Rookie Jonathan Isaac has looked nice in limited minutes, and his upside is certainly well worth monitoring, as he shows a lot of intangibles and leadership qualities at just 19 years of age.
The Phoenix Suns are 4-8 and have lost four-straight games, with losses to the New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Brooklyn Nets and Miami Heat. The Suns are averaging 105.7 points per game, but its defense has been abysmal. Despite getting 22.3 points from Devin Booker and another 16.9 from T.J. Warren, Phoenix simply cannot protect its own basket. The Suns are surrendering 115.8 points per game, and Alex Len is foul prone while Tyson Chandler is injury prone. The Suns are giving up too much on the perimeter, but no one is fearing Phoenix at the rim either. The Suns recently dealt Eric Bledsoe for Greg Monroe.
It is unclear how that improves the team.
Monroe is not a fierce defender, either, and the team clearly misses the production it got from Alan Williams a year ago. The Suns are trying to get more from Dragan Bender, and the second-year forward is averaging 4.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 21 minutes a night. He is still not ready.
Marquese Chriss is in something of a sophomore slump, with just 6.6 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 20 minutes a night. Chriss is attempting 2.4 threes per game this year at a 37.9 percent clip, though, which adds value and also makes him a viable player at the 3-spot.
The Suns have some emerging young talents, but until the team gains some momentum defending other teams and communicating better on that end of the court, it is tough to remain very optimistic about its prospects. Booker is a fine 2-guard and perhaps a perennial All-Star, but the team’s frontcourt lingers behind the better teams in the West.