Orlando Magic Grades: Phoenix Suns 98, Orlando Magic 94

Devin Booker's 6-0 run near the end of the game ended the Orlando Magic's hopes of sweeping the Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Devin Booker's 6-0 run near the end of the game ended the Orlando Magic's hopes of sweeping the Phoenix Suns. (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were set up for a gutsy road win over the Phoenix Suns. Then they lost their composure as an 8-0 run closed the game for the Suns.

66. Final. 94. 38. 98

The Orlando Magic had that steely gaze of a team about to get a big win when Nikola Vucevic drained his second straight 3-pointer to give the Magic a 94-90 lead against the Phoenix Suns.

Orlando was the playoff team burying the non-playoff team even without Aaron Gordon (sore right calf) and D.J. Augustin (left knee contusion) in the lineup with injuries. The Magic brought the fight.

They might still be trying to find the finish.

Devin Booker knows how to finish and knows how to hit those tough shots. He came around a Deandre Ayton screen to hit a contested 3-pointer over the trailing Evan Fournier to cut the lead to one.

Markelle Fultz then made a young player mistake, driving too deep into the paint without a plan. He tried to whip the ball back out to Evan Fournier. But Booker stole it and he got to the 3-point line for a go-ahead 3-pointer.

The Magic’s lead had evaporated and suddenly that poise and calm evaporated.

Down by two points, the Magic struggled to get into their set. They still were able to work a post-up for Nikola Vucevic with Devin Booker on him. Booker tried to swipe at the ball and pull the chair, grabbing Vucevic around the waste in the process. The refs swallowed the whistle and Ricky Rubio stole the ball and hit a free throw to extend the lead to three.

Orlando was still scrambling and could not get a good shot up to tie the game. Fournier tried to draw a foul on the subsequent 3-point attempt and could not get Ayton to budge as the Magic finally fell 98-94 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday.

What would have been another chance for a gutsy win by an undermanned team on the road turned into another frustrating close loss. A game Orlando had in the bag but could not close against a star player making tough shots and canceling out their defensive efforts.

The Magic deserve some credit for their ability to scramble and defend despite all the absences.

Orlando fell behind by 10 points and struggled to shoot for much of the first half. The team gave up far too many free throws. But the Magic played much more disciplined and focused in the second half to erase the deficit and then take the lead late into the fourth quarter.

Orlando did plenty wrong and were plenty sloppy — an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter. The team got stuck several times going into isolation play. Fournier looked off some open shooters.

But plenty others played well to make up for the losses the Magic had. When they played strong defense, they were as effective as they always are.

When the pressure heightened in the fourth quarter and the avalanche began, the Magic lost a lot of the poise that put them in the lead. And with all the absences the team has, that poise is the thing that matters most.

EVAN FOURNIER. B. Evan Fournier has carried a lot of the offensive load this year. It is impossible not to recognize all the ways he has improved with his shot selection, in-between shooting and even his defense. After struggling to defend Devin Booker through much of the first half, he locked down Booker, helping hold him to eight points in the second half. Fournier did a good job chasing him around screens and limiting his good looks.<p>Booker, of course, had six really important points. Fournier will take some of the blame for them. And Fournier’s overall play down the stretch was something he would probably like to forget. He was force-feeding the ball to Nikola Vucevic instead of looking to make the right play. On the play where Vucevic turned it over, he missed <a href=. G/F. Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC. B-. Similarly, Nikola Vucevic struggled to get himself going. There was definitely an added responsibility to his game and he played like it. Often times, he was trying to do a bit too much. And the Orlando Magic were trying to do a bit too much to get him the ball. Vucevic works a whole lot better within the flow of the offense, rather than getting force-fed in the post.<p>Vucevic finished the game with 18 points and 13 rebounds. He did a lot of his scoring in the second half as the Magic erased the deficit. The team did a better job getting him the ball on the move and in areas where he could score more easily.</p><p>Far too much, though, the Magic were working the ball to him and trying to get him on stand-still post-ups. That allowed the Phoenix Suns to load up their defense against him and crowd him with double teams and traps. Vucevic ended up on the floor plenty. While there were almost certainly some uncalled fouls, the Magic did Vucevic no favors and Vucevic did not get his typical shots to go down.</p>. C

C. <a href=. G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS

B. <a href=. PG. Orlando Magic. MARKELLE FULTZ

B+. The Phoenix Suns are still trying to get their identity down and play consistently. The fact this team is losing leads is a sign of some of their immaturity. But they can play with energy. They will play physically and they will swarm teams. Devin Booker is good enough to finish games off as he has come into his own — especially on defense.<p>Booker was the barometer of this game in a lot of ways. He led the team in scoring and his 6-0 run to give the Suns the lead was something the Magic could not counter. When a good player gets hot, Orlando right now does not have a cooler.</p><p>But Phoenix was solid throughout. The team was willing to defend even if imperfectly. Even as they struggled to shoot consistently in the second half, Phoenix kept finding ways to attack the paint. The Suns were patient working their offense and caught the Magic in a lot of rotations. They found holes. And in the big moment, they stepped up.</p>. 15-23. 12th West. PHOENIX SUNS

The Orlando Magic are now 18-21 and seventh in the Eastern Conference, percentage points ahead of the Brooklyn Nets. They trail the Indiana Pacers by six games for sixth in the East and lead the Charlotte Hornets by four games for eighth.

Next. Orlando Magic keeping options open in wake of injuries. dark

The Orlando Magic are back in action Monday against the Sacramento Kings in at GoldenOne Pavilion.