PHOENIX — When is a loss a win? When the Phoenix Suns drop a game to their closest competitor behind them in the upside-down standings, otherwise known as the race for the most chances to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Playing shorthanded, the Suns lost 109-103 to the Orlando Magic in front of 16,880 at Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday.
T.J. Warren’s game-high 26 points went for naught as the Suns (22-47) lost their third straight, going winless on a three-game homestand.
Leading by one entering the fourth quarter, the Suns were outscored 25-18, including a game-deciding 10-2 run late in which Evan Fournier had five points. He finished with 25 on 8-of-19 shooting.
The Magic (25-45) had played the night before, losing at Golden State, but they looked like the fresher, hungrier team in snapping a four-game losing streak and posting their first series win in the past five meetings.
Four other Suns reached double-digits in scoring: Tyler Ulis (19), Marquese Chriss (13), Alan Williams (12) and Devin Booker (10), who was playing through an ankle injury.
Ulis added eight assists in a starting role for the second game in a row.
The Suns and Magic own the league’s third and fourth-worst records, respectively.
With points on their final four possessions, the Suns went on an 8-2 run to close the first quarter. Warren hit four free throws, while Williams and Jared Dudley each hit jump shots. Warren finished with a team-best eight points in his 12 minutes of play; well on his way to a 13th straight game scoring in double figures since Feb. 15.
Between Ulis and Williams, there’s 20 of the Suns’ 36 second-quarter points. Ulis shot 5-of-8 from the field with a pair of free throws and Williams 3-of-4 plus 4-of-5 from the foul line. Ulis also had four assists, so he accounted for 20 total points in the period. Williams has scored in double-digits in a career-long 12 straight games.
After a two-point second quarter, Warren again found his shooting touch, this time lighting up the scoreboard for a game-high 12 points in the third quarter. He made 4-of-6 field goal attempts and went a perfect 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Warren also added three rebounds, one assist, two steals and one block shot in the period.
Despite missing a double-double by one point, Alex Len once again posted another quality performance against the Magic. With nine points and 10 rebounds to go with three steals and two blocks in 28 minutes, Len is now averaging 19.3 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.25 blocks in his last four matchups against Orlando.
Call it a sign of things to come: the Suns turned the ball over twice in their first three possessions of the game. At quarter’s end, they had coughed the ball up nine times, the last three during what was a 15-0 Magic run to go up 28-14 at the 1:48 mark. Twice Fournier hits 3s. He scored a game-high 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting in the period.
Though the Magic made only two 3s in the second quarter, they came within a three-possession stretch and during what was a 12-2 run that put the visitors ahead, 54-42, at the 3:31 mark. First, Terrence Ross showed his long distance range. Then, it was Aaron Gordon’s turn. Overall, the Magic hit 4-of-11 3-points attempts in the first half.
Coming off his worst shooting performance of the calendar year, Booker missed seven of eight field goal attempts through three quarters. His one make was an 11-foot pull-up jumper to give the Suns an 83-81 advantage at the 2:03 mark. Over the last seven quarters, Booker, the team’s leading scorer, was shooting 20 percent (7-of-35).
Missing 7-of-8 field goal attempts to begin the fourth quarter, the Suns, who led 85-84 to begin the period, fell behind by five not even four minutes into the period. Not only had they been outscored 9-3, but all nine Magic points were scored by D.J. Augustin who shot 3-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line in just over five minutes.
STAT OF THE GAME
29.2: The Suns’ fourth-quarter shooting percentage as they missed 17-of-24 attempts, helping account for their worst final 12-minute scoring output since Jan. 21 at New York, when they totaled 17 points.
HE SAID IT
“It just shows the heart he has and how he feels about his teammates,” head coach Earl Watson said, referring to Booker, who was playing through an ankle injury. “You could tell early in the game he could barely move and that look just wasn’t the same. And all the shots were off balance, but he’s a fighter, he’s going to play through it.”
Suns had won six consecutive home games on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.
Suns are now 4-6 (1-2 at home) when the wearing black alternate uniforms.
Chriss needed four stitches above his right eye after a Nikola Vucevic elbow.
Leandro Barbosa did not dress, missing the game—his first—due to illness.
Eric Bledsoe sat out his second straight game and third this season for rest.
Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight did not play for the 12th straight game.
The first 5,000 fans received an exclusive Suns poster as part of PHX Night.
The Suns open a six-game slate against the Eastern Conference when they face Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson of the Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Sunday, March 19. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. with pregame coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns had lost the last three meetings before winning the most recent matchup earlier this season.
Behind a solid defensive effort—the Suns held the Pistons to 36-percent shooting—plus 21 points from Bledsoe and a double-double from Len, the Suns earned a 107-100 victory on Nov. 9 in Phoenix.
Overall, the Suns have won 10 of the last 16 games in the series.
From Detroit, the Suns will make stops in Miami, Brooklyn, Boston, Charlotte and Atlanta in what is the team’s longest road trip of the season: a total of six games in 10 days.
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