The eight-man Magic are heading back home.
A road trip where the Magic seemingly had more body strains than made field goals has come to a merciful end following Orlando’s 109-90 loss to the Suns.
The goal in this game with an undermanned and overworked team at the end of a four-game West Coast trip wasn’t so much to leave with a W, but to escape unharmed...and even that seemed momentarily in doubt when Terrence Ross was doubled over in pain after an apparent shot to the groin (he remained in the game).
Even with Ross making a rare start due to the Magic having the league minimum of eight available players, it was a painful shooting night for Orlando. The Magic were held scoreless for the first 3:30 of the game, missing their first six shots as the Suns built an 8-0 lead. The Magic would go on to miss 12 of their first 13 shots, many of which were good looks, before Ross hit a pair of outside shots.
Defensively they had no answer Devin Booker, who had 17 points in the first. Booker hit a logo three to give the Suns a 21-7 lead with 3:21 remaining, and then on the ensuing inbounds pass got an easy two on a layup after Chris Paul caught Dwayne Bacon napping and intercepted the inbounds pass.
The Suns, after feasting in the paint and shooting nearly 60 percent in the quarter, went up by as many as 17 and led 28-16 after the first. The Magic shot 25 percent in the first, with Ross accounting for 10 of their 16 points.
The most interesting aspect of the second quarter was the Chuma Okeke shooting display, and Nikola Vucevic and Mo Bamba sharing the court for roughly three mostly uneventful minutes.
The Suns ran up their lead to 23 before the Magic staged a 9-0 run highlighted by a ferocious one-handed jam by Ross and some outside shots by Okeke, one of which came after the Magic batted the ball around like a volleyball, that brought Orlando within 44-29 with 3:11 to go in the half.
Okeke scored seven points in the quarter, showing no hesitation with his shot (3-for-5 in the quarter). The Magic overall, though, continued to struggled from the field, making just 1 of 8 attempts from deep in the second while shooting 30% in the second and a dismal 27.3% in the half as they trailed 52-35 at the break.
The Magic were held to just four points in the paint, compared to 24 for the Suns. They were also outscored 11-0 on points off turnovers and 10-0 on fast break points.
Ross, in his first start since November of 2017, led the way for Orlando in the first half with 14. Vucevic, coming off an extraordinarily efficient 42-point performance, was held to 7 points on 2-for-10 shooting. For the Suns, Booker attempted just two shots in the second and was limited to one point in the quarter, finishing the half with 18 points.
The Suns opened the third on a 10-2 run that pushed the lead to 61-39. Phoenix, led by Mikal Bridges’ 11-third-quarter points, maintained a 20-plus point advantage for the majority of the quarter.
The Magic effort once again was there until the very end, as Dwayne Bacon scored all nine points during a 9-0 Magic run in the fourth that cut the Suns’ lead to 94-78 with 6:23 left. But that was about as close as they’d get.
Ross had 23 points to lead the Magic, going 3 of 10 from three, which accounted for half of the Magic’s makes from deep as they went just 6-for-35 (17.1%). Vucevic had his second-lowest scoring game of the season with 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting in 28 minutes. Bacon finished with 19 and MCW had 14. Mo Bamba played a season-high 23 minutes, he grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked two shots but scored just 2 points on 1-for-7 shooting.
Booker had 27 points to lead the Suns, who have won 9 of their last 10 games. Chris Paul finished with 12 points and 9 assists, and Deandre Ayton added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Magic went 1-3 on their western trip, and overall have dropped 16 of their last 20 games. They now return to Orlando, where they’ll close out the season’s first-half schedule with seven of eight games at home. That begins on Wednesday against the Knicks, following two much-needed days off.