Fresh Off Win, Suns Face Struggling Magic

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In Orlando, the Suns face a team struggling through what they only just escaped on Friday.

The Magic have lost three straight and six of their last seven, ranging from defeats at the hands of defending NBA champion Miami to losses against equally woeful Boston.

Reinforcements have only recently arrived in the form of Glen Davis. The 26-year-old forward returned from foot surgery for his first game of the season on Saturday, a 101-98 setback at Miami. Davis scored 20 points and added five rebounds and two steals in just 26 minutes, strengthening a position of weakness at power forward.

Davis makes for a potentially bruising post tandem alongside Nikola Vucevic, a seven-footer from Switzerland who currently ranks sixth in the NBA in rebounding (10.8 rpg). Still only 23 years old, Vucevic also averages 14.6 points, 1.3 steals and 0.9 blocks per contest.

Phoenix will also be highly aware of guard Aaron Afflalo, Orlando’s do-it-all shooting guard. The 28-year-old puts up over 22 points, four rebounds and four assists per game.

With Eric Bledsoe likely to miss his fourth game in a row due to a bruised shin, Afflalo becomes the primary assignment for either Gerald Green or defensive specialist P.J. Tucker.

KEY MATCHUP

For all the talk of the NBA lacking traditional big men, it seems like the Suns are facing one every night. Brook Lopez, DeMarcus Cousins and Al Jefferson have all done their fair share of damage in the paint.

Vucevic is also an inside-first big man, though perhaps not to the degree of the post players mentioned above. He is particularly effective from the area just outside the right side of the lane, where has converted over 80 percent of his shot attempts.

Miles Plumlee’s main concern, however, will be on the glass, where Vucevic tends to make the most of his opportunities. The Magic center is eighth in the league in offensive rebounds, making his presence a must-know at all times when Plumlee and the other Suns’ bigs box out on the defensive end.

OPPONENT X-FACTOR

As much as the Suns have turned the ball over recently, they’re still well below Orlando, a team that ranks second in the league in that category (18.3 per game).

Much of that stems from a lack of a true point guard. The Magic have been running split shifts between No. 2 overall pick Victor Oladipo and third-year guard E’Twaun Moore. Oladipo played primarily off the ball in college, and Moore has yet to establish himself as a dependable option for significant minutes.

Bledsoe’s absence is an unlucky break for Phoenix, which likely could have used his havoc on defense to exploit this weakness. That being said, there should still be plenty of steals to be had for the likes the Suns, who rank fifth in the league in thefts per game.

FINAL THOUGHT

Bledsoe’s injury has pushed Gerald Green to the starting lineup for the time being, but it’s also opened up more opportunities for first-round pick Archie Goodwin. The 6-5 guard has made the most of it thanks to his speed and energy, averging 8.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals in just 19.7 minutes over the last three contests.

While Goodwin’s shooting has been hot-and-cold, his impact is becoming increasingly dependable. There are still rookie moments, like his backcourt turnover at Charlotte, but he’s made up for them by making equally hectic plays in the Suns’ favor, often swinging the game’s momentum back to Phoenix.