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Suns win second straight, hold off Magic 107-104

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The Phoenix Suns held on throughout the fourth quarter to grab a victory against the Orlando Magic by a final score of 107-104.  The Magic put together some solid runs throughout the game to keep it close, but couldn’t keep it together in the final 30 seconds, letting the Suns hold on for the win.

Alex Len had a huge night for the Suns, notching career highs in both points (20) and rebounds (14).  He also added three blocked shots and an assist to top off his career night.  Len’s play with the absence of Tyson Chandler has been essential to the Suns this past month.  The backcourt duo of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight each scored 21 points to make it three Suns with 20+ points tonight.  The two also compiled 9 rebounds and 14 assists combined.  Knight played pesky defense all night, notching an impressive six steals in the contest.  The Magic were led by big man Nicola Vucevic who showed his all-around game, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.  Tobias Harris turned it on during the second half to end up with 16 points, three rebounds, three assists, and three steals.

The first quarter saw a very balanced attack by the Suns.  Power forwards Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic led the way with four points apiece, while eight out of the nine Suns players to see the court all scored during the quarter.  This kind of start was an unusual one for the Suns as we normally see Knight or Bledsoe get off to a hot start and take charge early, but it was nice to see everyone chip in from the start.  The Magic took advantage of a quiet, slow-paced first quarter to get out to a 24-21 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Things didn’t change much going into the second quarter, seeing no one from the Suns take charge in the opening minutes of the quarter.  Then, Teletovic stepped up and started hitting three pointers.  Eddie Johnson had the quote of the night after Teletovic’s third splash from downtown of the quarter, “I’d hate to go to dinner with Mirza, he ain’t passing NOTHIN.”  To his defense, Mirza has been shooting the ball very well from behind the line this season, where he is shooting .456.  The Suns ended the second quarter on a great 7-0 run to take a two point lead into halftime, 49-47.

The Suns kept their momentum coming out of the locker room into the third quarter.  Brandon Knight took his opportunity to step up and scored 15 of his 21 points in the quarter.  Knight, Bledsoe, and Len were all aggressive and got to the free throw line consistently throughout the quarter, getting into the bonus with 4:14 remaining.  Len notched his double-double towards the end of the quarter, fighting hard on the glass on both ends of the court.  Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic did all they could throughout the quarter to keep their team close, but the Suns stretched their lead to 11 heading into the final quarter of play.

The Magic came out red hot in the fourth quarter, going on an 11-2 run to cut it to a two point game before Head Coach Jeff Hornacek called a timeout to get the team reorganized.  The timeout helped, as the Suns pushed back and established a six point lead after a wide open corner three by P.J. Tucker.  Magic SF Tobias Harris was determined to get his team back in the game, tallying seven points in a flash to tie up the game at 102 with just two minutes left.

With the Magic inbounding the ball down two points with just 28 seconds left, Magic PG Elfrid Payton lost his dribble at half court and the Magic had their first, and lethal, turnover of the quarter, giving the Suns some breathing room.  Bledsoe picked up a foul and got to the line, hitting one free throw to extend the Suns lead to three with 15 seconds remaining on the clock.  Oladipo came off a screen and had a nice look at three to tie the game, but was well off and the ball went out of bounds.  After an official review, the ball went back to the Magic for one last attempt to tie the game.  Evan Fournier caught the inbound pass and tried to draw contact with Len to get to the line, but he tried too hard to draw contact with Len and thankfully wasn’t rewarded with free throws.  The buzzer sounded with the scoreboard showing a final score of 107-104 for the Suns victory.

Dime Drops

Len is playing great basketball this month while the Suns have been without Tyson Chandler.  Len had a huge game on both ends of the court tonight, and has been showing Suns fans what he is capable of lately.  So far this month, Len has been averaging 12 ppg, 8.6 rpg, and 2 bpg.  The silver lining of missing Chandler for these last couple weeks has definitely been Len finding his confidence and thriving in the system.

The Suns did an excellent job of penetrating and getting to the line tonight.  Len found himself at the line 11 times tonight, which is a tip to how aggressive he was in the paint all night.  The Suns made it to the line 27 times tonight and converted on 19 of them for 70.4%.  The three pointers weren’t falling for the Suns tonight (6-24), so they played aggressively and penetrated to the paint consistently.

Markieff Morris has been mentioned in trade talks by a couple teams this past week.  The Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans both have shown interest in Morris.  In the Houston talks, Terrence Jones has been a name that has been floating around, while Ryan Andersen has been mentioned connected with the Pelicans deal.  Morris missed tonight’s game with a sinus infection, but we should continue to see minimal minutes from him if a trade is in the process.

The Suns play at home this Friday when the Portland Trailblazers come to visit.  Tip off is at 7:30 local time.

Charlie Erling

Long-standing Phoenix Suns fan, longer-standing burrito enthusiast.

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