Arizona

Lethargic Phoenix Suns effort not enough to beat young Orlando Magic

The Phoenix Suns just didn’t have it in a 114-97 loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

The offense didn’t have much zip. The defense didn’t last as much as usual and was hit to a series of 50/50 balls. That allowed a young Magic team (4-9) to breathe early and build confidence before the shots came so hard in the second half that the game ended early. It was only a six-point game at halftime, although the Suns played poorly, but the Magic quickly took it to 13 through three quarters.

Phoenix (8-4) were without Chris Paul (right heel pain) and Landry Shamet (concussion-like symptoms), further limiting offensive options while Cam Johnson recovered from a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Orlando did a good job on Devin Booker with his length and execution of the game plan, not allowing him much room in his mid-range bags. Booker can still pull off a defensive effort like this most nights, but as for his team, it was just one of those nights for him.

He finished the tournament with 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists and two turnovers on 6-of-19 shooting. Booker started the night with the best +/- in basketball but had a game low of -27 on Friday.

After a career-high 21 field goal attempts and a season-high 31 points in Wednesday’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Mikal Bridges returned to a more aggressive offensive line in this game. His shot, however, stayed wide all evening. Bridges wore a sleeve on his left arm after he was spotted playing with his left elbow in Minnesota.

Unusually, many of his misses on a 3v13 night of shooting were offline. As Bridges went into the short midrange in the second quarter at half-switch where he will knock down his patented touch shot, Bridges pulled off an awkward looking one-handed push shot that indicated his left elbow was actually interfering with him.

Deandre Ayton’s commitment wasn’t there. In a game where many of the Suns’ offensive plays were designed to capitalize on switches and create inconsistencies at the post, he didn’t seal with consistency. His first shift in the second half in particular was pretty disjointed. He had 14 points and five rebounds.

While Cam Payne’s scoring impact of 22 points and 8 of 15 on the field was a team high, he had four assists and four turnovers. To be fair, he was the Suns’ best player by a fairly wide margin.

Orlando finished with 15 of 33 (45.5%) from 3-point range and had six players in double figures, including 20 points for Wendell Carter Jr., 17 over Franz Wagner and 16 more from Jalen Suggs. The Magic were without star rookie Paolo Banchero (ankle), which may have something to do with the Suns’ lack of intensity.

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