ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — With another late lead slipping away, Goran Dragic asserted himself for the Phoenix Suns.
Dragic scored his team’s final seven points in a decisive end-of-game burst that helped the Suns hold off the Orlando Magic 104-96 Sunday night.
“We had an answer every time they got close, but past games we didn’t,” Dragic said. “I’m happy we responded like that. The ball circled around nicely, everyone got touches and everyone was dangerous to score, and that was the key to the game.”
Dragic scored 23 points and Gerald Green added 20 to lead a balanced attack as the Suns became the first NBA team since 1977 to win while making just one free throw.
Phoenix went 1 for 3 from the foul line, the fewest free throws ever made and attempted against the Magic.
“We did a great job of finishing the game. … We took the right shots, we didn’t try to force anything,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “We just made the right play.”
Two nights after stopping a four-game losing streak with a seven-point win at Charlotte, the Suns took the lead early in the first quarter and never relinquished it.
After Orlando trimmed what had been a 14-point deficit to three late in the fourth quarter, Channing Frye made a difficult jumper and Dragic scored the game’s next seven points to put it away.
Dragic made 10 of 17 shots and also had 13 assists. Frye finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
“We have been having a hard time holding leads. … Goran did an excellent job of closing out the game,” said Green, who made four 3 -pointers and grabbed eight rebounds. “He is a savvy point guard in this league. When he makes plays like that it is hard to stop us.”
Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Reserve Andrew Nicholson had 19 and Aaron Afflalo added 16 for the Magic, who have lost four straight and seven of eight overall.
“Give them credit offensively, they have some shot-makers out there. Guys that can get the balls in their hands and make plays and shots,” Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Phoenix played for the fourth straight game without leading scorer Eric Bledsoe, who’s still bothered by a bruised left shin.
Green filled in, scoring 15 of his 20 points in the first two quarters to help the Suns build a 53-44 halftime lead. Reserves Marcus and Markieff Morris also had big nights, combining for 28 points and 13 rebounds.
Marcus Morris had 16, including a jumper that gave Phoenix its biggest lead at 88-74. Markieff Morris finished with 12, the last of his baskets helping the Suns remain in control while Orlando was making its final push for the lead.
Jameer Nelson, who had 11 of his 15 points in the second half, made two 3-pointers during a 16-5 run that carried the Magic back into the game. He made a pair of free throws to trim the deficit to 95-92 with just over 3 minutes left, however that was as close as it would get down the stretch.
Frye steadied the Suns with a 12-foot jumper. Dragic followed with a driving layup, then a 3-pointer and 17-foot jumper to finish a 9-0 spurt that built the lead back to 12.
Magic rookie Victor Oladipo missed nine of his first 10 shots and finished 3 of 12 for six points. Glen Davis had eight points in his second game back from a left foot injury that had sidelined him since last January.
Tobias Harris made his season debut for the Magic after being sidelined for five weeks by a high left ankle sprain. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 17.3 points over the final 27 games of last season, and Orlando has missed his scoring and rebounding while getting off to a 4-9 start.