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Recap: Suns go down with a whimper to the Magic, 99-85

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NBA: Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What did you expect when the Suns top two scorers sat out the game, while the Magic’s best players all played?

Devin Booker and T.J. Warren, who account for more than 40% of the Suns scoring between them, both were out for injury, while Aaron Gordon started and scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds in the opening nine minutes of the game.

The Suns played with effort, but just didn’t have enough in the talent pool to win this game.

Josh Jackson had a good start but a terrible finish, Elie Okobo dribbled the air out of the ball, and Trevor Ariza was in slow motion all night. Jamal Crawford had a hot stretch, but still was bad most of the night. That just spelled doom for the Suns against a healthy Magic team.

The Suns were outscored by a bajillion in the fourth.

Bad night to play basketball, Suns fans. Worse one to watch it.

First half

On the opening possession for each team, the Suns ran out the clock without a good shot while the Magic immediately took Trevor Ariza into the post with Aaron Gordon and took a three point lead.

Orlando posted up whoever they could each possession, usually Ariza, whichever of Orlando’s big men wasn’t being defended by Deandre Ayton.

On the other end, though, Ariza scored 8 of the Suns first 12 points, the other two baskets coming from Ayton down low.

Somehow the Suns stayed close with the Magic despite the talent discrepancy. Ryan Anderson entered the game in the first quarter for the first time in a while, to bring a bit more size to the lineup in the face of Gordon, Vucevic, Isaac and Bamba.

Josh Jackson was the early star of the game for the Suns, with 5 rebounds and 3 assists in the first quarter, while not taking as many shots as I had feared he would take in Booker and Warren’s absence.

Elie Okobo had a tough start in place of Booker, basically, looking more like the early-season Elie than Wednesday’s night’s Elie. Big difference in starting vs. relieving.

The Suns had a 25-21 lead after one.

Terrence Ross came off the bench to make a pair of quick threes to start the second quarter, putting the Magic in the lead for a moment.

A minute later, Ross goaded rookie De’Anthony Melton into a shooting foul on a three pointer (and almost made it!). and then made another jumper on the next possession.

Meanwhile Ryan Anderson missed a pair of open threes, and then Jerian Grant made a three and the Magic suddenly had a four point lead. Another Terrence Ross and it was up to 6. Timeout Suns. 17-7 Magic run to start the second quarter (11 from Ross).

The group on the floor, Ayton-Melton-Crawford-Anderson-Bridges, might not have played a single minute together before this stretch, so their lack of communication on defense could be expected I guess.

The next lineup was better, with Ariza and Bridges pairing up on perimeter defense and the leaking stopped dripping.

Still, without Booker and Warren, the Suns truly struggled to score. Kokoskov didn’t seem happy with any lineups, as he made liberal substitutions the rest of the quarter, taking guys out for a minute or two at a time before subbing them back in for another guy. We got to see Troy Daniels for the first time in a while too. I am reminded of Igor’s comment from the other night about too many leaks, the water is coming from everywhere.

Somehow the Suns kept themselves in the game, down only three at halftime, 51-48.

  • Jamal Crawford was the big scorer, with 11 points off the bench, including 3-for-4 on threes, and dished 3 assists.
  • Josh Jackson with 4 points, 4 assists, 6 rebounds and a steal. He played aggressive defense all night too. The kind of D you’ve wanted to see from him all season.
  • Deandre Ayton had 11 points, but grabbed only one rebound
  • 10 players saw time on the court in that half. The only healthy player who didn’t get on the court? Dragan Bender.

Second half

The Magic made every shot to open the half and the Suns did not. Soon the Magic lead was 10, and the Suns looked like they had no answer for a focused Magic team.

The Magic made 6 of 7 shots to open the quarter, with three threes, for 15 points on those 7 shots.

After the timeout, Troy Daniels made a pair of buckets while the Magic cooled off, but then the good times couldn’t last.

Trevor Ariza decided to completely dog it. We watched him not get back on defense, not run on offense, not fight through screens, not even try. And Igor leaves him out there because he’s “the vet”. This is bad. Why even play him?

Oh and at this point, Jackson was back to bad Josh, He was 2-for-14 from the field, and had stopped trying to feed teammates. Bad Josh came out of halftime. What did they all talk about at halftime? Geez.

Jamal Crawford went on a personal tear to close the quarter, including 5-of-6 free throws on being fouled behind the arc, plus a great midrange jumper as the quarter ran out.

Suns down only 75-71 after three. But somehow it feels like a 20-point deficit.

Unfortunately, bad Josh and Trevor came back in and the Suns were not surprisingly down 10 again as Ariza refused to fight through screens and gave up on his man as soon as the guy got ahead of him. On the other end, Ariza stood and watched as a carom from a teammate’s miss came near him, but he didn’t move to corral it.

And it was clear Mikal Bridges made it into Igor’s doghouse, while Jackson and Ariza somehow never did. We won’t know why this is (Bridges being subbed out a few times this half after only a couple of minutes of play) because Igor likely won’t admit it, but we will ask anyway.

Every time the Suns got close, they took a bad shot and didn’t close the gap. Elie Okobo ran point for most of the fourth quarter and he... just wasn’t good. But he sure dribbled a LOT. And made bad passes that weren’t turnovers but they put his teammates in really bad position without a chance to score. Rookie point guards are just usually not very good.