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Suns storm into Magic matchup with momentum

Nov 5, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) blows a bubble between plays during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns’ four-game road trip required an extra stop prior to Friday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

With Hurricane Nicole set to hit the Sunshine State, the Suns opted to exit Minneapolis after Wednesday’s game and fly to Tampa — away from the projected worst of the approaching storm. From there, the club will take a chartered bus to Orlando.

The Suns hope the extra stop doesn’t take away from the momentum established with their 129-117 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Devin Booker collected 32 points and a season-high 10 assists, and Mikal Bridges added a campaign-best 31 points and nine rebounds as Phoenix improved to 1-1 on its trek.

Cameron Payne contributed a season-high 23 points to go along with eight assists and six rebounds. To boot, he played 35 minutes without recording a turnover while playing in place of Chris Paul, who sat out due to soreness in his right heel.

“Typically, if he does turn it over, it turns into a deficit play for us because he’s typically going to the basket,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said of Payne. “He generates so much speed off of the turnover because he’s behind the play, so now they are playing 5-on-4 … I thought he was really sound with the ball, he didn’t try to make too many home-run plays.”

Payne said he was mindful of keeping the ball out of the opposition’s hands while playing in his second game after missing the previous two with a foot injury.

Booker was quick to cite the team’s depth as a reason why the team didn’t miss a beat on Wednesday.

“That’s what we stand by; playing the right brand of basketball,” Booker said. “We have a lot of talented guys, even when we’re at full roster. There are really good players that don’t get a chance to play that are in the rotation now. So, everybody’s taking advantage of their opportunities.”

Orlando’s Chuma Okeke made the most of his first start of the season while playing in place of star rookie Paolo Banchero (sprained ankle). Okeke drew rave reviews for helping to limit NBA leading scorer Luka Doncic under 30 points (24) for the first time this season in the Magic’s 94-87 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

“We have everything to prove as a group and also as individual players,” said Franz Wagner, who led Orlando with 22 points.

“We weren’t satisfied with our performance the other day against Houston (a 134-127 loss on Monday). … We want to be a resilient team. We have to get better at finishing games, playing through mistakes and stuff like that.”

The Magic are taking a cautious approach with Banchero, the top overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft.

“He’ll be day-to-day,” coach Jamahl Mosley said of Banchero, who leads NBA rookies in scoring (23.5) and rebounds (8.3).

“He’s moving around a little bit but probably more sore than anything.”

–Field Level Media