The second of a back-to-back. Dwight Howard waiting and licking his chops at the prospect of playing against Channing Frye, Garret Siler and Earl Barron. Steve Nash questionable with a groin injury. It doesn't look promising for the Phoenix Suns tonight as they head into the new Orlando Magic Amway Center arena. How appropriate is it that Florida, the second home to multi-level marketing companies, is home to the Amway Center?
For the Suns to have any hope of beating the Magic tonight, they are going to have to hope that the limited minutes the starters played in Miami -- thanks to the blowout -- will translate to more energy than the team played with against the Heat. The post-game quotes from the Suns focused on that lack of effort and energy, a first for this season.
"They came out and dominated. We did not have any energy at all. We didn't play like we have been playing. We just kind of went through the motions. We never got the pace up like we wanted. We just didn't do anything that it takes to win the game," Jason Richardson said after the game. J-Rich finished with 11 points and no rebounds.
With Robin Lopez sidelined with a knee sprain, it will be interesting to see how Alvin Gentry decides to play his front court rotation. The Suns' last two opponents, the Heat and Nuggets, didn't have a ton of size in the middle, but the Magic's Dwight Howard and backup center Marcin Gortat will be a larger challenge.
Earl Clark is an option if the Suns go small. He's looked better in his last two stints than in previous opportunities last year and, most importantly, has done a better job on the glass. Clark has six rebounds in his 19 minutes of play which translates to a respectable 11.4 boards per 36 minutes, which is up from 5.8 per 36 last season.
The problem is there's no way to play Clark without having a very small front court, as he would always be paired with either Channing Frye or Hakim Warrick. Gentry's size options are the end of the bench seven-footers, Garret Siler and recently signed Earl Barron.
Against the Heat, Gentry went with his small ball lineup to try and generate some offense, but was forced into playing a zone defense for extended periods of time. It didn't work well against the Heat and would likely work worse against the Magic, who typically are a great outside shooting team, although at this point are only hitting 34.7 percent of their threes.
Siler, with his size, might be a better option against the Magic if rebounding becomes the priority in the game. Barron provides a more of an offensive option with his outside shooting and, in theory, can rebound, but he certainly didn't show in his one rebound, nine minute first performance last night.
With any of these guys, the only way to see how they will respond is to play them, but there's a risk in doing that if they fail and Gentry doesn't think it's fair to judge players unless they get at least 10 to 12 minutes in a game.
Nash will likely be a game time decision again.
"I was pretty sore, but I was able to get through the game," Nash said after the Heat game. "I kind of took a little risk. It didn't feel great, but I don't think I did serious damage to it."
Goran Dragic would get the start if Nash decides to take the night off, which is not something he does lightly. Dragic had a few sub-par games and was struggling with his own groin injury, but shot the ball well in Miami (11 points, 4-7 shooting in19 minutes). Typically with Goran, that kind of thing will carry over to the next game, so I would expect him to play well if he gets the start. It would be nice to see him get some opportunities to play big minutes and run the team early and late in games.
The Suns have beaten the Magic in Phoenix in their last eight meetings, but haven't won in Orlando since November 2007. Tonight's game is the fourth in five nights, but they still have two more road games in the next four days before returning home, where they continue to play an every-other-day schedule for three more games. All told, that's nine games in 15 days to close out November's difficult schedule.