PHOENIX – As the Orlando Magic continue on their four-game road trip out West, they’re hoping to tighten up their perimeter defense.
The Magic struggled to defend the 3-point line against the Spurs on Tuesday – their first contest of the road swing – allowing San Antonio to knock down a franchise-record 22 triples.
Unfortunately for Orlando, that task won’t get any easier as its next two opponents, the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers, both rank top six in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage.
However, if the Magic (28-41) hope to make this road trip a successful one, they’ll need to limit the Suns (37-32) from outside the arc when the two teams go head-to-head on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.
“For us, defensively, limiting them to one shot and impacting all shots will be very important as they have great three-point shooters,” said Magic center Wendell Carter Jr. “Being able to take away a lot of their strengths is going to be very important (on Thursday) night.”
Like the Spurs, the Suns will challenge the Magic’s defensive rotations with high-end ball movement. Phoenix’s 27.1 assists per game rank fifth in the association and right ahead of San Antonio (27.0).
Suns point guard Chris Paul sets the tone in that regard as the 12-time NBA-All-Star racks up 9.1 assists per game, fifth most in the league.
Shooting guard Devin Booker provides the scoring punch. The three-time All-Star is currently putting up 27.8 points per game, a top-10 mark in the NBA. Booker is shooting 59.9 percent from the floor and 47.4 percent from deep over his last seven games, scoring 30-plus points in six of those contests.
“We have to lock in,” said Magic point guard Markelle Fultz. “They’re going to do a lot of pick-and-roll. They have very talented players who can score, and they play well together.”
On the other end of the floor, Phoenix possesses a top-six defensive rating (112.1). They allow the sixth-fewest points in the paint (47.7) and eighth-fewest fast break points (12.8) in the league.
IN AND OUT: Gary Harris (right hip flexor soreness) is questionable, while Jonathan Isaac (left adductor surgery) is out against the Suns.
For Phoenix, Torrey Craig (left heel soreness) is probable, while Kevin Durant (left ankle sprain) and Landry Shamet (right foot soreness) are out.
KEY STAT: The Magic will face Terrence Ross for the first time since he was waived by the franchise just over one month ago. Nicknamed the "Human Torch" while in Orlando for his ability to check in and instantly heat up and impact the game, Ross appeared in 349 career games with the Magic, averaging 12.7 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest. He ranks sixth on Orlando’s all-time 3-pointers made list with 697 of them.
QUOTES TO NOTE: “When I first got to Orlando, we had plenty of games where he would just come into the game and just hit three or four threes in a row. I don’t remember who we were playing against, but he started off the first half kind of slow and in the second half he just turnt up. I was like, ‘man, he’s one of those guys. He’s one of the best shooters in the league.’ It was just an honor to be on the same team as him.” – Carter on playing with Ross
“He had a lot of nice dunks (and) a few times hit incredible buzzer-beaters and shots. T-Ross just always came into work just having a great mind and bringing excitement to the gym.” – Fultz
HOW TO WATCH: Watch the game on Bally Sports Florida or tune in on radio via FM 96.9 The Game.