The Magic's start could not have been worse. To both halves for that matter.
The starting lineup struggled to get the offense going off the bat. Six first-quarter turnovers and seven third-quarter turnovers gave Phoenix the energy and the chances to take control fo the game. It seemed like tired legs at the end of this West Coast swing were taking over and the team was looking forward to the trip home.
That is understandable in a long, grinding season. Particularly with a young team learning how to play in this league. The sloppiness could have led just about anyone to kind of skate by. Particularly if the other team took advantage.
That is not who this Magic team is. There might be mistakes in execution, but the team is going to play hard and find a way. Phoenix could get open shots on lazy rotations on the pick and roll or Orlando could throw the ball away on offense, Orlando would keep fighting and if the starters would not find a way to grind this one out and give the team a chance, the bench would have to do so.
J.J. Redick provided that spark. Andrew Nicholson provided that spark. E'Twaun Moore did too in helping close the game out in the fourth quarter after some poor games on this road trip. The Magic proved they could grind out a win when they were not playing their best game. Orlando found a way and won 98-90 holding Phoenix at bay with yet another strong fourth quarter performance.
J.J. Redick provided an instant spark off the bench, helping the Magic close the gap and scoring 15 points in the first half to get the team back into the game from an energy and intensity level and helping the team grow in confidence. He did it all, drawing fouls on 3-pointers thanks to lackadaisical defense from Wesley Johnson, making shots and dishing it to players on the pick and roll. Redick tied a career high with nine assists, helping facilitate as well as score on his way to 20 points.
The Suns second unit was simply unable to match the effort that their starters had and that the Magic had with Redick in the lineup. The lackadaisical and porous defense made mistake after mistake, allowing Orlando to move the ball with ease and get back into the game. It was the one thing Phoenix could not afford to do in trying to snap the team's now seven-game losing streak.
Orlando let Phoenix back into the game in the second half with turnovers yet again, but the same story ensued late in the third quarter once Redick and Andrew Nicholson came in.
Nicholson scored a career-high 19 points and frustrated Phoenix's interior defense with his patience and quiet determination attacking the glass. He nearly hadh is first double double as he also grabbed nine rebounds. He hit nine of his 11 shots including what might have amounted to the clincher late in the game on an inbounds play that was designed for him to step out and hit a jumper.
In a sign of his confidence it hit off the rim, bounced high into the air and went in to secure the game.
There were points in the game when the Suns interior defenders wanted nothing to do with Nicholson. And he was active without the ball on the pick and roll too. He played incredibly impressively as he continues to shine for the Magic.
The play and effort from Redick and Nicholson helped spur others on. Orlando recorded 31 assists on the team's 40 field goal makes, an impressive mark even against a Phoenix team struggling to rotate on defensive and giving up large cutting holes for a team patient enough to reverse the ball.
Glen Davis was aggressive with a surprisingly efficient 15 points on 7-for-11 shooting and Arron Afflalo started making shots with 14 points. E'Twaun Moore bounced back from some rough outings to lead the team for much of the fourth quarter in scoring 10 points and dishing out three assists.
The stats are gaudy against an opponent that was certainly not playing at its best and its most confident. Still to break the team down even with 18 turnovers to its name was an impressive way to win for Orlando.
To be 3-2 on this road trip and to win in this manner when the team did not have its best all night was certainly something the Magic can see as a positive. Orlando, after two games where it struggled to finish, found a way to close and found a way to grind it out.