Magic's Toibias Harris talks after return vs. Suns

On paper, the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns resemble each other. In the last two years, each franchise has embarked on a massive rebuilding effort.

The Magic started their new direction one year earlier than the Suns. If you look at both teams’ rosters, Orlando appears to have an edge in overall talent, high-ceiling talent and in overall experience.

On Sunday night, however, the Suns played like the more talented, more cohesive, more energetic team. Phoenix dealt Orlando a discouraging 104-96 loss at Amway Center in which the Suns seemed to control the game from start to finish.

Playing their second game in two nights, the Magic trailed early and never fully recovered.

“The main thing is guys are still playing hard even though we were down by however many amount of points,” point guard Jameer Nelson said. “We didn’t get discouraged. It’s just we didn’t have it. We didn’t bring it. You have games like that in the NBA, and you have to be mature enough to come back in the next game and bring energy.”

The Magic now have lost seven of their last eight games.

And, yet, Sunday’s defeat felt mystifying compared to the other losses.

The Suns went just 1 for 3 from the free-throw line and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, became the first NBA team since Nov. 1977 to win a game when it made just one foul shot.

“They made tough shots,” Magic power forward Glen Davis said. “I don’t think we played with enough urgency in the second half, and then at crucial times with plays we needed to make, we didn’t make them. Defensively, we’ve just got to get better, and everything’s got to be harder.”  

Phoenix, playing its fourth consecutive game without injured starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, received a big game from Goran Dragic, who scored 23 points and added 13 assists without a turnover.

The Suns excelled at turning the Magic’s missed long-range jumpers and missed layup attempts at the rim into fastbreak opportunities.

Phoenix scored 18 points on the break, while Orlando managed just six in transition.

“You have to be in great shape if you want to play like that,” Dragic said. “I always like to play like that. It makes the game much easier and much more fun for us.”

The Magic (4-9) were playing their second game of the season with Davis and their first game with Tobias Harris, who made his debut after he sat out almost a month because of a high-ankle sprain.

Davis and Harris scored six points apiece, while Davis also collected four rebounds and dished out four assists. He also fell to Amway Center’s parquet floor on a couple of occasions to chase down loose basketballs.

But Davis’ energy wasn’t contagious. At least not early in the game.

The Suns’ extended their lead to 13 points in the second quarter.

Midway through the third quarter, the Magic cut the Suns’ lead to 66-63 when Arron Afflalo was fouled behind the arc and hit the three ensuing free throws.

Phoenix (7-6) recovered.

The Suns went ahead 88-74 when Marcus Morris hit a midrange jumper with 7:56 left in the fourth quarter.

“They hit some tough shots tonight,” Afflalo said. “You’ve just got to give them credit for the victory.”

The Magic drew within 93-87 on a drive and dish by Afflalo to Nik Vucevic for a dunk with 4:08 to go.

The announced crowd of 15,785 started yelling “Vooooch!” Finally, they had something to be excited about.

The fans yelled louder about half a minute later, when Andrew Nicholson made a 3-pointer from the left corner to cut the lead to 93-90.

But the Suns always had an answer.

jbrobbins@tribune.com. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.