It was an evenly-matched contest between two teams at the bottom of the standings, each with a very different philosophy on the rest of the season. The Orlando Magic, now 9.5 games back of the eighth seed with a win, relied heavily on their veterans. The Phoenix Suns, 11.5 back in the West, rolled with a starting lineup that included 23-year-old T.J. Warren as their oldest player with vets Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler being shut down earlier this week.
It would be a back and forth contest that included 18 lead changes. The Magic starters would dominate the first quarter, hitting 10-straight shots and opening up a 14-point lead. The bench would then allow the Suns to cut it to two, and it would essentially be anyone’s game from then on.
Turnovers were huge in the one, as the Magic were clearly the more composed team. Orlando committed just 13 turnovers, while turning 16 Phoenix turnovers into 23 points.
Evan Fournier and D.J. Augustin were huge for the Magic in the fourth quarter. Augustin scored 10 of his 12 points in the final period, while Fournier was the focal part of a Magic attack that would close out the Suns late, including hitting two clutch free throws to ice it. The Frenchman would finish with 25 points, three rebounds, two assists, and three three-pointers.
“Some of our big wins have been about Evan Fournier down the stretch, making plays,” said Magic coach Frank Vogel following the win, “he had a big three, an aggressive drive, and he made a great pass to, I think Terrence Ross, late in the game, when the defense collapsed, so he was a big part of our crunch time offensive success.”
The Suns would score only 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Terrence Ross had a bounce back game after struggling with his shot recently, scoring 14 points in Phoenix on 6-10 shooting, hitting two threes in the process.
Another big performance for the Magic came from center Nikola Vucevic, who put up a grown man double-double, notching 18 points and 17 rebounds, tied for his second-most of the season.
The high scorer for the game was Phoenix’s T.J. Warren, who put up 26 points and five rebounds in the loss.
After being burned for 21 points in the first quarter by Golden State’s Klay Thompson on Thursday, the Magic were able to hold Phoenix’s rising star Devin Booker to 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
The Orlando Magic (25-45) are done with their West Coast road trip, and will return home for a very winnable game against the 25-43 Philadelphia 76ers. At this point in the season such a win could build the team’s confidence for the future, but it could also hurt their draft prospects. The Magic now sit in fourth position in the upcoming draft lottery, with the 6ers in the fifth spot.