PHOENIX — His words proved prophetic.
“Nothing is ever easy in this league,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said prior to the game.
He was right; though his team made it harder than it probably should’ve been.
With five players scoring in double figures, the Phoenix Suns handed the Orlando Magic their seventh straight loss, 109-93 in front of 17,508 at US Airways Center.
The Suns pulled away late. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that the Suns finally gained — and sustained — separation from the league’s worse road team.
Marcus Morris hit two threes for an 8-1 close to the quarter. Then Gerald Green opened the fourth quarter hitting back-to-back three-point shots.
It was all part of a 27-5 run turning a 75-74 deficit into a 101-80 lead, the Suns’ largest advantage of the game.
“Defense,” Goran Dragic explained. “We got some steals, scored some on the fast break and then hit a couple of threes. Just solid defense.”
Dragic finished with a team-high 18 points.
The Suns, who have won three of four, pulled to within 1.5 games of both Memphis and Dallas in the West.
Green hit three threes in the fourth quarter. He finished with four threes, giving him 20 games this season of at least four made threes, which is tied for the third-most in Suns history.
Frye scored five points in a Suns’ 7-0 run to open the third quarter. He finished with 12 points, the first time in double figures in four games.
Rookies Alex Len and Archie Goodwin combined to score the team’s first seven points to open the second quarter.
Len finished with nine points, tying a career-high while setting a career-high with four made field goals on just five attempts in 11 minutes.
After spotting the Magic the game’s first six points, the Suns scored nine unanswered. Dragic had four of his nine first quarter points during the run.
The Magic had played the night before at Golden State yet played well enough to be tied with the Suns at the end of the first quarter (25-25) and at the half (52-52).
The Magic scored 14 points off of 16 Suns’ turnovers. Four of those points came on one possession. Following a bad pass by Markieff Morris (turnover No. 13), Arron Afflalo hit a three-pointer while being fouled by PJ Tucker. Afflalo made the free throw to complete the four-point play and tie the game at 67 with 3:34 remaining in the third quarter.
STAT OF THE GAME:
The Suns shot 50.6 percent (45-of-89) to improve to 17-0 this season when making at least half of their field goal attempts.
HE SAID IT:
“I said hey, if you think you guys are a playoff team, this is the time to come out in the third quarter and you get after it and try to really take the game away. I think we were just playing the game for a half,” Hornacek said.
The Suns improved to 6-0 this season when coming off a double-digit loss.
The Suns swept the season series against the Magic for the first time since 2007-08.
The Suns caught a break before the game when point guard Jameer Nelson (sore left knee) was ruled out. They then caught an even bigger break when center Nikola Vucevic, the Magic’s third-leading scorer and leading rebounder, was ejected at 2:32 of the first quarter.
Vucevic, who had eight points and three rebounds at the time, received a pair of technical fouls in a span of 75 seconds.
The Suns close out this brief two-game homestand, the final one of the regular season, by welcoming in the Detroit Pistons on Friday, March 21. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. MST with pre-game coverage beginning 30 minutes earlier on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
The Suns dropped the first meeting, losing in Detroit, 110-108, on a Josh Smith driving layup with 1.2 seconds to play. Smith finished with a game-high 25 points. Channing Frye scored 21 to lead the Suns, who have beaten the Pistons five straight times at US Airways Center.