Struggling Magic continue road trip at Suns
PHOENIX — Portland sank enough 3-pointers to sink Orlando on Wednesday.
Phoenix, meanwhile, has sunk to new depths.
The Suns billed this season as a “time to rise” after taking center Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, but they are off to the worst start in the 51-season history of the franchise and will bring a 4-17 record into a game against Orlando on Friday.
The Magic (10-12) have lost four of five and will be playing the fifth game of a six-game road trip, one of two six-game trips this season, both before mid-January.
While the Blazers made a franchise-record 19 threes in handing the Magic a 115-112 loss, the Suns played their first game with Devin Booker as the starting point guard in a 115-99 loss at the Clippers on Wednesday, although position roles are not as clearly delineated in coach Igor Kokoskov’s flowing offense that stresses ball movement.
“I just look at it as a playmaker,” Booker told reporters. “I’m fine with it. Whatever they have me doing, I’ll do.”
The move also will give the Suns a chance to take a longer look at rookie point guard Elie Okobo, who was the first player taken in the second round of the 2018 draft and has been back and forth between the Suns and G League affiliate Northern Arizona this year.
Okobo scored a career-high 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting in a career-high 32 minutes against the Clippers, one of the bright spots for a team that was outrebounded 56-34 and gave up a 20-4 run in the third quarter that went a long way toward determining the outcome.
“It’s good to get back on the court and try to help my teammates,” Okobo told reporters.
The Clippers, like some recent opponents, attacked the Suns at the basket, and their physical play behind 7-foot-3 Doban Marjanovic and 6-8 Montrezl Harrell led to 18 offensive rebounds.
Suns 7-foot rookie center Deandre Ayton had only four field goal attempts and finished with a career-low four points and five fouls.
“I felt like I played like a rookie,” Ayton told the Arizona Republic. “I really got thrown off by the big dude, I’m not going to lie.”
Slow starts have marked the Suns’ recent history as the team has attempted to build through draft picks, the best of whom has been Booker, who is averaging 24.5 points and 7.0 assists per game. He has had a career-high 12 assists twice in the last two weeks, a function of teams double-teaming him to take the ball out of his hands.
The Suns are 25-59 through the first 21 games in the last four years.
Orlando has lost four of five against a schedule that has included road games in Denver and Golden State and a home game against Toronto.
The Magic played without Aaron Gordon in Portland, out with a sore lower back. Gordon, averaging 16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds a game, was removed from the Golden State game on Monday with back spasms. He is considered questionable for Friday’s game.
Jonathan Isaac had 16 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes while starting for Gordon in Portland, and Nikola Vucevic had 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Isaac told reporters in Portland regarding the recent string of losses.
“We have to win these games. That’s the bottom line. We haven’t been able to execute down the stretch, and that’s something we are going to have to do if we want to be a serious team at the end of the year.”
The Magic lost by six points to the Warriors and suffered a two-point loss in Toronto on Nov. 20, the final home game before their trip.
“We’ve got to get better,” coach Steve Clifford told reporters in Portland. “C’mon. You play that offensive game against that (Blazers) team … you gotta win that game.”
Vucevic, averaging 20.8 points and 11.1 rebounds, is one of five players averaging at least 20/11, joining Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Karl-Anthony Towns.