Orlando Magic Grades: Phoenix Suns 109, Orlando Magic 90

The Phoenix Suns coasted to a win over the Orlando Magic as the fatigue of a long road trip came to an end. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
The Phoenix Suns coasted to a win over the Orlando Magic as the fatigue of a long road trip came to an end. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

90. 38. 109. 66. Final

The Orlando Magic played the final game of their road trip against the Phoenix Suns with just eight healthy players.

Terrence Ross was making his first start since Nov. 2017, before he settled in permanently as the team’s super sixth man. The three players off the bench for the Magic? Two centers in Khem Birch and Mohamed Bamba and rookie forward Chuma Okeke.

To say these conditions were less than ideal is an understatement. And the exhaustion that was apparent from three straight games having to play this severely undermanned was also an understatement.

The Magic were never in this game. Despite the best intentions, Orlando struggled to shoot early and gave up easy baskets to the streaking Phoenix team. The Magic were never in it.

The Magic missed 12 of their first 13 shots. Devin Booker scored 17 points in the first quarter, including a deep 3-pointer that was followed immediately by a steal from Chris Paul and a lay-in for Booker. He outscored the Magic 17-16 in the first quarter.

It was those plays that just showed the exhaustion and frustration of a team that is limping to a much-needed two-day break and a return to the Amway Center.

The Orlando Magic ended their road trip with a tired performance as the undermanned team fell short in Phoenix against the Phoenix Suns.

Phoenix kept pounding Orlando with speed and precision for a 109-90 victory at Phoenix Suns Arena on Sunday. The Suns coasted to the victory after staking an early lead and never looked back.

This is not to say the Magic did not fight. They had plenty of good looks early on that would not fall and give the team the confidence it needed to win. The Phoenix Suns certainly took a more serious approach to the game than the Sacramento Kings did Friday.

And the team, despite facing the huge deficit, found some defensive footing at various points throughout the game. This never became a 30-point blowout, although the Magic simply did not have the firepower to make a run.

Orlando’s bench was able to spell the starters (as much as the team could) in the fourth quarter and cut the deficit to 14. There was definite energy about the way the team played. As much as they could muster. But energy is not enough when the team gets off to a slow start and is not able to lean heavily on their defense to get them to the finish line.

C. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

It is really unfair to ask Nikola Vucevic to do what he has to do every night to keep this team competitive and functioning. But that is what stars have to do. And while Nikola Vucevic certainly should maintain his candidacy for the All-Star Game after this game, when he struggles, the Orlando Magic have no chance to win.

It was clear from the beginning of the night that Vucevic did not have it. And unlike previous games when he struggled early, he did not find his rhythm later in the game to at least help the Magic threaten. This was just a poor shooting night from Vucevic — understandable considering the heavy load he especially has had to carry for this undermanned team.

Vucevic finished 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting. Most of these were makeable shots that Vucevic is usually reliable with. But the makes were not there as fatigue seemed like it was setting in. He added 10 rebounds and played some solid defense if sometimes a bit late on rotations and reacting for second efforts.

B-. . G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS

Someone is going to have to score and playmake for this team with so many players out. It is really difficult for players to change who they are in such a short time — especially without much practice. Terrence Ross has had to change as much as anyone. He started for the first time in more than four years in Sunday’s loss.

But Ross has started to find his footing, especially offensively. After being mired in a long shooting slump, Ross has started to pick up his offensive game a little bit. His raw scoring numbers are up as he has an even greener light to fire.

Ross finished with 23 points on 9-for-23 shooting, making just three of his 10 3-pointers. He added five assists and six rebounds. The good sign is that his activity is way up. The bad sign is that he is still not shooting efficiently. And his ability to shoot the team in and out of games is probably greater while he is shooting more with this depleted lineup.

. C. Orlando Magic. MOHAMED BAMBA. C+

Undoubtedly, the depleted roster is giving a bigger role to Mohamed Bamba. At last, he is playing meaningful minutes for the first time all season. And that should get him some consistency and some rhythm to improve and get back to where he was before COVID knocked him out of the lineup last July.

Bamba’s numbers are not as important, but his production does matter a bit for him — he scored two points on 1-for-7 shooting with 11 rebounds and two blocks. He grabbed five of those 11 rebounds in the fourth quarter, which was largely garbage time with the game long decided.

But during the first quarter, Bamba really struggled. Some of this is because he is playing out of position — always playing alongside either Khem Birch or Nikola Vucevic. But he looked a bit lost on both ends of the floor. He was overplaying blocks and taking himself out of defensive position. Bamba has to be more solid with his playing time if he wants to get more.

DWAYNE BACON. B-. . G/F. Orlando Magic

Dwayne Bacon ended up leading the team in scoring with 19 points on 6-for-12 shooting and making all seven of his free throws. That is what Dwayne Bacon does. He scores and works one on one to get to the basket.

But 13 of those points came in the fourth quarter with the game well decided. And he is still not a great passer when he tries to attack the basket. The Magic have had to platoon him as a point guard at times and that has had some struggles despite Bacon’s best efforts.

17-9. 4th West. PHOENIX SUNS. B+.

The Phoenix Suns played a professional game. That is the way to describe it. They got their work done early and took care of their business. Coach Monty Williams said after the game the team did not look over their undermanned opponent and did what they needed to win. Devin Booker certainly set the tone with 17 of his 27 points in the first quarter.

Phoenix ended up shooting 44.6-percent and posted a 110.1 offensive rating. That is not a bad number by any means but it is not an overwhelming blowout. The Orlando Magic are likely more frustrated with their own missed shots and their offensive execution than their defense, to be honest. The Suns coasted through most of this game. Not that they had to do a whole lot more.

Next. Injuries might derail the Orlando Magic completely. dark

The Magic are now 10-18 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic return home Wednesday to play the New York Knicks.