Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY
There was some fire in the Magic throughout the game against the Suns on Wednesday. Nikola Vucevic picked up an ejection from two technical fouls in the first quarter. The usually quiet center was not too thrilled with the physical play and flopping going on againts him. So he hit the shower early.
In the second quarter, Dante Marchitelli reported on the Fox Sports Florida telecast that Jacque Vaughn threatened his team they would be sitting next to him on the bench if they did not pick up their effort. That is not the kind of ultimatum you would expect from the usually composed Vaughn.
Orlando responded, tying the game at halftime and fighting back from a 7-0 run to start the third quarter.
The Suns run was percolating and eventually the Magic would run out of gas to keep up. That is the familiar refrain of these games lately. The Magic fight hard, go cold and dig themselves a deeper hole trying to catch up, turning the simple into the frustrating and complex.
Phoenix went on a 15-2 run to open the fourth quarter, making a couple of key 3-pointers and turning every Orlando miscue into a fast break opportunity. The Magic just did not have the offensive ability tonight to keep pace. Not without easy opportunities and mistakes preventing any chance at a comeback.
The Suns took care of business for a 109-93 win at U.S. Airways Center on Wednesday, sending the Magic to their seventh straight loss. It will take more than a fiery speech to win some of these games. It is going to take a full 48-minute effort with solid execution.
For three quarters, the Magic gave themselves a chance. The fourth quarter was a lesson in frustration.
Orlando scored only 17 points and shot 29.4 percent from the floor. Most of the Magic's points for a good chunk of the late third quarter and early fourth quarter came from the free throw line. At least Orlando was getting to the line some, just not at a rate well enough to keep up with the Suns offense. Phoenix turned eight Magic turnovers into seven points and had 16 points in the paint in the fourth quarter alone.
Orlando turned the ball over 20 times. Phoenix won the battle in the paint with 56 points in the paint and 25 fast break points. That would be a lot for the Magic to overcome. Especially without Vucevic and Jameer Nelson in the lineup for the entire game. Nelson sat out with a sore knee.
The Suns had balance and poise to execute. The Magic always seemed to be playing catch up. And as they tried to dig themselves out of the hole, eventually their poor execution only caused them to fall deeper.
Games like that happen with a young team. And a close game can turn into a rout fairly quickly when it does.
Arron Afflalo bounced back with 20 points and Victor Oladipo started to score 14 points and dish out nine assists. Tobias Harris came off the bench to score a team-high 23 points and added nine rebounds. Vucevic was playing very well before his ejection with eight points and three rebounds in 9.5 minutes.
Yet, when things were going downhill in the fourth quarter, no one was able to get to the basket. What worked offensively throughout was getting to the basket or catching the Suns out of position for offensive rebounds. Tobias Harris and Arron Afflalo were settling for mid-range jumpers and they were not falling.
Call that a missed opportunity or simply the way things may gof or the Magic in the final dozen or so games. The Magic often will not have the horses to keep up if a team goes on a run. Nor will they have the poise to eexecute and stem that tide all the time. Or for a full 48 minutes.
That is the consistency the Magic have been after all year. That is all part of the process.
It will come eventually.