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Suns 104, Magic 96: Goran Dragić pushes Suns past Magic

Orlando dropped its fourth straight game Sunday in large part because it couldn't contain the Slovenian point guard.

Goran Dragić and Nik Vučević
Goran Dragić and Nik Vučević
Kim Klement - USA Today Sports

The Orlando Magic dropped their fourth straight game Sunday, 104-96, against the Phoenix Suns, their first loss to Phoenix in Orlando in six years. The Suns' backcourt of Goran Dragić (23 points, 13 assists, and no turnovers) and Gerald Green (20 pointsand eight rebounds) tormented Orlando with their transition speed and shot-making, while Marcus Morris added 16 in reserve.

Nikola Vučević led the Magic with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Arron Afflalo scored 16 to continue his strong start to the season. Andrew Nicholson scored 19 points off Orlando's bench.

In his first game of the season, Magic forward Tobias Harris provided six points and one rebound off the bench.

Goran Dragić got Phoenix off to a great start, scoring or assisting on each of its first eight baskets to propel the visitors to a 19-13 lead after six minutes and change. Dragić's ability to push the pace in transition got the Suns into their sets early, and from there he managed to break Orlando down off the dribble and get into the paint, further scrambling Orlando's defense.

The Suns built their lead to 10 points off a Marcus Morris jumper with 1:48 to go in the period, and though Orlando closed the lead to six less than a minute later, Morris hit jumpers on each of the Suns' next two possessions to put Phoenix up 10 after one period. Three-point shooting proved to a key difference: Gerald Green sank three triples in the period, all off Dragić passes, and Dragić added one of his own. In contrast, the Magic went just 1-of-6 on threes in the first quarter.

Orlando made a run in the second period with Andrew Nicholson in the game. The second-year big man scored eight straight Magic points with a pair of threes and a hook shot, with his second triple bringing the Magic to within three of Phoenix. Though his offense ignited Orlando, his defense was no less impressive, as when he rotated to stonewall a driving Green, who had gotten loose along the left baseline. Nicholson got to where he needed to on time, and the elevated to body Green without fouling, a great defensive play.

The Suns regained control, however, as Dragić re-asserted himself. On one three-possession stretch, the Slovenian combo guard scored a driving layup and then assisted on two dunks, the second of which put Phoenix up 10 points.

Suns forward P.J. Tucker closed the half with a key bucket, sinking a three-pointer with nine seconds to play to put Phoenix up nine points; the Magic had stymied Phoenix for 22 seconds on the possession, but managed to lose track of Tucker in the left corner as the shot clock wound down. A stop there and a fast-break conversion at the other end would have had Orlando down by four at the conclusion of the half: instead, its deficit was nine points.

The Magic worked to cut the deficit in the third quarter, feeding Nikola Vučević in the post repeatedly against the Suns' inexperienced low-post defenders. Vučević scored 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in the period, but Orlando never drew closer than three points: after Afflalo drilled three foul shots to cut the deficit to three, Phoenix went on a 14-6 run. E`Twaun Moore helped the quarter end on a positive note for the Magic, hitting a catch-and-shoot triple off penetration from Victor Oladipo to draw to within eight points. For the second straight period, the Magic managed to shave a single point off Phoenix's lead; they would need to take command on the fourth quarter to have a chance at the win.

Behind Nicholson, the Magic nearly did just that. His third three-pointer of the game trimmed the Suns' lead to three with 3:30 to go, and after a Channing Frye jumper, the St. Bonaventure product made two free throws to make it three points again. But Frye responded with a jump hook and then Afflalo turned the ball over. Following a Suns timeout, Dragić drove by Jameer Nelson with ease and made a layup, putting Phoenix up seven with less than two minutes to go.

On the Suns' next possession, he drilled a three-pointer to put the visitors up 10 with 1:18 to play, effectively ending the Magic's chances of earning a win.

For the second night in a row, the Magic's inability to get stops when it mattered most submarined a comeback effort.

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