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Rookie Nicholson lifts Magic past slumping Suns

The SportsXchange

PHOENIX - With two straight road losses and the weight of a long five-game trip on their shoulders, the Orlando Magic needed a pick-me-up to finish their journey on a happy note on Sunday.

Rookie Andrew Nicholson provided that spark with his best game as a pro, hitting 9 of 11 shots from the floor and scoring 19 of Orlando's 49 points off the bench.

He hit a key jumper off a set play with 1:50 left to give the Magic a 98-90 win and hand the reeling Suns their seventh straight loss.

"He's a scoring machine and this was one of those games when you need that guy off the bench to step up and get us over the hump," Orlando forward Glen Davis said of the rookie from St. Bonaventure. "It shows a lot about his future and about the talent we have on our bench.

"This was the kind of game where you ask 'What do we want to accomplish as a team this season?' We showed a lot of fight, to end a long, long road trip with a win after losing the last two was big for us."

The Suns trailed by 11 at 93-82 with 4:38 left, but scored six straight to get within five on Marcin Gortat's bank shot with 3:19 to go. But the Magic called a play for Nicholson out of the timeout, and he nailed a 14-foot baseline jumper to put the Suns away.

"The bench was productive and we were able to change the pace of the game," Nicholson said.

J.J. Reddick, who had 24 points to help beat the Suns 115-94 in Orlando on Nov. 4, led Orlando again with 20 points. He made four of his team's five three-pointers as the Magic rallied from deficits of nine points in the first period and six in the third.

Davis had 15 points and Nikola Vucevic added 12 points and nine rebounds for Orlando.

Meanwhile, Phoenix sports fans feel like their entire city is in a slump. A few hours after the NFL's Arizona Cardinals were embarrassed 58-0 in Seattle for their ninth consecutive defeat, the Suns lost their seventh straight for the first time since Feb. 4-22, 2004, the season before Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix to spark a run of three Western Conference final appearances.

Phoenix played without starting point guard Goran Dragic (sick) and top reserve P.J. Tucker (knee), but coach Alvin Gentry wasn't using any excuses for the team's eighth loss in nine games over a 15-day span.

"We had enough people out there and we're playing at home, we should win the game. The only excuse we have is that we played poorly," Gentry said. "We have to play better, we have to rebound the ball, make better basketball decisions and stop turning the damn ball over.

"We are playing spot basketball. We play good for two minutes, then bad for seven, then we're good for five and we're bad for three. You can't win any basketball games in this league when you play that way."

Shannon Brown led the Suns with 17 points, including 10 in the third quarter when the Suns took a 67-61 lead before crumbling in a hail of missed shots.

Sebastian Telfair missed six of seven shots and managed just six points and eight assists in 37 minutes subbing for Dragic.

"(Sebastian) played really well, but Goran is a different guy - he goes and attacks and he can hit the ball from outside," Suns guard Jared Dudley said. "We missed him out there, but we still had a chance to win the game."

The Suns led by nine at 15-6 after five Orlando turnovers in the first six minutes. But Reddick, who had just six points in 34 minutes during Friday's loss in Sacramento, caught fire and turned the game around. He had seven quick points to pull the Magic within three after one quarter (23-20), then hit two three-pointers 19 seconds apart to spark a 21-7 Orlando run capped by Jameer Nelson's layin to take a 43-37 lead with 6:08 left in the half. Reddick finished the half with 17 points and Orlando had a 53-48 lead at the break.

"I shot the ball well in the first half but Andrew and E'Twaun (Moore, 10 points) really gave us a nice lift off the bench. We had a bunch of guys in double figures and we shared the basketball (31 assists) and Andrew just played tremendous basketball at the end.

NOTES: Dragic reportedly lost six pounds since Saturday morning. ... Before the defeat, the Suns were one of just three NBA teams that hadn't experienced a losing streak of seven games or more over the last nine seasons. The two remaining are Dallas and San Antonio. ... Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn is happy with his team's defense at the 3-point arc. "It's just our ability to have good closeouts, be disciplined and contest shots," Vaughn said. "Guys have been committed to it. It's paid off for us." ... The Magic hit five of their 20 3-pointers Sunday, making them 8-3 when they sink at least five three-pointers in a game and 0-9 when they make four or fewer.
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