In his first game back in Florida against his former team, a motivated Grant Hill helped his Phoenix Suns over the Orlando Magic 106-96 Saturday night, justifying his decision to jump ship from Eastern Conference pretender to Western Conference contender.
It was a one-sided game that saw the Phoenix Suns prove that this year’s squad will be just effective as last season’s, while the Magic struggled to fit their newest pieces into their offense.
Not long after the first quarter this game had been all but decided. Thanks to an excellent performance by Phoenix’s Leandro Barbosa, the Suns were able to take a stranglehold on the overwhelmed Magic and never let up.
With an array of long-range bombs and high-speed floaters, Barbosa poured in 22 points in the first half alone. The aptly named Brazilian Blur would go on to finish the contest with career-high 39 points. Having been given the starting nod in the absence of the injured Raja Bell, Barbosa, like the rest of the visiting Suns, made sure to come out of the gates burning. Barbosa, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and arguably the most underrated player in the NBA, used his mind-numbing speed and ball control to run in lay up after lay up all night long.
Dwight Howard, as expected, was one of the few Magic players able to make a constant contribution to the often-stagnant Orlando offense. Smashing his way around the basket, Howard crunched, crashed and careened his way to an impressive 33 points and 18 rebounds while drawing early fouls from Suns big man Amare Stoudemire. With nine minutes left of the third period, Stoudemire picked up his fourth personal foul and sat for the brunt of the remaining second half.
The story leading into the game though, was the return of Grant Hill to the arena he called home for the past seven seasons. After signing a seven-year, $93 million contract in the summer of 2000, Hill played in just 200 of a possible 574 regular season games as a result of his well-documented struggles with injuries. Much to the Orlando crowd’s dismay, Hill got involved in the offense early and finished the game with 14 points.
With a lead hovering around the 20 point mark for the majority of the contest, the Suns were able to spend a lot of time on cruise control, despite the fact that Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni kept his starters on the down the stretch. A modest fourth-quarter surge from Orlando saw the Magic narrow the gap to ten, but that’s as close as they would get.
Rashard Lewis turned in a disappointing performance for the Orlando Magic. Lewis, an expensive offseason purchase for the Magic, struggled from the field hitting just 3 of 14 field goals for a total of 7 points, while not particularly standing out on the defensive end either.
The Phoenix Suns are back in action Tuesday night when the face the New York Knicks at home, while the Orlando Magic spend their Tuesday night squaring off against the winless Seattle SuperSonics.