PHOENIX (AP) — A smooth rookie led the Orlando Magic to a successful end of a long road trip.
Andrew Nicholson scored nine of his career-high 19 points in the fourth quarter and the Magic pulled away to hand the Phoenix Suns their seventh loss in a row, 98-90 on Sunday night.
“I am going out there playing hard,” he said. “They are just trusting me.”
The 6-foot-9 first-round draft pick from St. Bonaventure made 9 of 11 shots and grabbed nine rebounds, also the best of his young career.
“He’s a scoring machine,” teammate Glen Davis said. “He scored a bunch and today this is one of those games where you need that guy off the bench to step up and make sure that we get over the hump”
Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said he and the team are gaining confidence in Nicholson.
“He is a scorer,” Vaughn said. “He can do that so we are going to continue to work on other facets of his game and make him the best player he can be.”
J.J. Redick scored 17 of his 20 points in the first half for the Magic at the end of a 3-2 trip.
Shannon Brown scored 17 and Jared Dudley 15 for the Suns, who were without starting point guard Goran Dragic due to illness.
Phoenix’s losing streak is its longest since 2004.
“It’s a real frustrating loss, a real disappointing loss,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “You know, we are playing spot basketball. We play good for two minutes, then we play bad for seven, then we’re good for five and we’re bad for three. You just can’t have any consistency and you just can’t win any basketball games in this league when you play that way.”
Redick’s only points of the second half came on a 3-pointer that put the Magic ahead for good, 78-75, with 10:13 remaining.
Orlando used an 11-3 run to take its biggest lead of the game, 93-82, when Arron Afflalo made two free throws with 4:38 left.
Dudley scored the first four in a 6-0 spurt that cut it to 93-88 on Marcin Gortat’s 8-foot bank shot 3:19 from the finish.
But Nicholson came off the bench to sink a 14-footer that made it 95-88 with 1:50 to go, then Afflalo made a 20-footer to put Orlando ahead 97-88 with just 1:22 to go.
The Magic led 53-48 at the break after neither team managed a double-digit advantage in the first half.
Redick scored 17 in the half, making 5 of 10 shots, 3 of 6 3-pointers, in 19 minutes.
He sank a 3, then followed with a four-point play — when he was fouled by Wesley Johnson while sinking a 3 from the top of the key — to tie it at 29-29 with 10:45 left in the half.
Moments later, Johnson fouled him on an errant 3-point try. Redick made all three from the line to put the Magic up 35-34.
The Magic extended it to 57-48 with the first two baskets of the second half. The Suns scored the next 11 to go up 59-57 on Gortat’s turnaround 13-footer. The run eventually reached 19-4 with Brown leading the way. He scored 10 in the outburst, including a pair of 3s. The last one came over the outstretched arms of 7-foot Nikola Vucevic to put Phoenix up 67-61 with 4:16 left in the third.
Orlando scored the next eight, capped by Vucevic’s layup, to regain the lead, 69-67. Luis Scola’s three-point play put Phoenix ahead 70-69, then Nicholson’s 17-footer made it 71-70 Magic entering the fourth quarter.
It was the second fourth-quarter flop in a row for Phoenix. The Suns were down by one after three against the Clippers in Los Angeles on Sunday, only to lose 117-99.
“It’s not anything complicated,” Gentry said. “We just have to play better. We have to be able to rebound better, we have to make better basketball decisions and we have to stop turning the ball over.”
NOTES: With Dragic out, the Suns used their fourth starting lineup of the season. … Suns reserve P.J. Tucker missed his second straight game with a sore right knee. … Redick had 14 points in his first 11 minutes on the court. … The announced attendance was 13,565, though US Airways Center was half-empty. … Orlando is home against Atlanta on Wednesday. The Suns host Memphis the same night. … Orlando has won five straight over Phoenix, including a 2-0 sweep this season.