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Suns 102, Magic 99: Magic comeback falls short against Suns

The Magic nearly stole a victory despite struggling mightily from three against the shorthanded Suns

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Facing a shorthanded version of the NBA’s best team, the Magic had a chance to send the game to overtime in the closing seconds.

What had been a valiant Orlando comeback, despite a dismal shooting night from beyond the arc, came up short when Franz Wagner’s game-tying attempt was blocked by Mikal Bridges to give the Suns a 102-99 win.

Cam Payne and Landry Shamet did their best Chris Paul and Devin Booker impersonations to make up for the loss of the Suns starting backcourt. Payne produced a double-double and Shamet nearly single-handedly outshot the Magic from three in the win.

The Suns got off to a quick start in the first during what would be a quarter of runs, opening the game with a pick-and-roll that led to an alley-oop from Payne to Deandre Ayton just seconds in. Phoenix jumped out to a 14-2 lead as the Magic missed five of their first six shots, including all four three-point attempts.

Wendell Carter Jr., who returned after missing the last two games with an illness, and Mo Bamba then sparked a run as the two Magic bigs accounted for the first 10 Orlando points of the game. Carter later hit a three that made it a 15-0 Magic run, giving them a 17-14 lead.

The Suns then went on a 14-2 run as the Magic were held without a field goal over the final 3:55 of the first. Terrence Ross ended the scoring rough when he drew a foul on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws to pull the Magic within 28-22 at the end of one.

Carter Jr. had 11 first-quarter points, including the Magic’s lone three-point make in the quarter on nine attempts.

The Magic were limited to a pair of threes by Moe Wagner over a six-plus minute stretch in the second as the Suns built a 45-37 lead. R.J. Hampton ended that with a pair of free throws and then stealing the ball and lobbing an alley-oop to Cole Anthony to pull the Magic within four.

The Suns scored seven unanswered before Anthony found Franz Wagner all alone down court for the layup just before the buzzer, sending the Magic into the half trailing 53-43. Orlando shot just 35.4 percent from the field in the half, going just 4 of 22 from three.

Phoenix maintained its double-digit lead for much of the third. The Magic continued to stick around, with Markelle Fultz repeatedly getting into the paint and converting. Orlando pulled within nine when Carter Jr. blocked a layup at one end and then beat JaVale McGee off the dribble for the dunk at the other to make it 73-64 with 2:17 left in the third.

After entering the fourth trailing 79-71, the Magic made it a one-possession game on a three-point play by Gary Harris that made it 79-76. Moe Wagner’s potential game-tying three went in-and-out, and Landry Shamet followed with a three to give the Suns a six-point advantage. It turned into an 11-2 Phoenix run that pushed the lead to 93-84.

The Magic answered with a 9-0 run, capped with Anthony’s three and ensuing layup that evened the score at 93-93 with 3:25 left to play.

After Shamet was fouled on a three-point attempt and made all three free throws, Hampton pulled the Magic within one after stripping the ball and coasting in for the layup. A loose ball foul sent Carter Jr. to the line where he made both to give the Magic a 97-96 lead with just under two minutes remaining. Ayton then answered with a layup and floater to put the Suns ahead 100-97.

The Magic had one final chance to even it up when Franz Wagner got away from Bridges during the inbounds pass for an open look at a three in the closing seconds, but Bridges recovered to make a game-sealing block.

Ayton finished with 21 points and 19 rebounds to lead the Suns. Shamet also had 21 points, going 6-for-10 from deep. Payne had 18 points and 12 assists.

Orlando was doomed by its three-point shooting, finishing 7-for-39 (17.9 percent). Carter Jr. had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Moe Wagner had 12 points and was the lone member of the Magic to hit more than one three. Bamba had nine points and 15 rebounds. Anthony, who exited the game after taking an inadvertent shot to the face by Bamba but later returned with a bandage, had 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting. Fultz also had 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting in 17 minutes.

Fultz will sit out on Wednesday when the Magic play the New Orleans Pelicans to complete the back-to-back.