Though Orlando is quickly starting to look like the team that once had the best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference at one point. The Magic traveled over to Phoenix Friday and behind a game-high 22 points from power forward Aaron Gordon, Orlando cruised to a 128-112 victory at Talking Stick Resort Arena in front of an announced 16,507 in attendance.

One of the reasons for Orlando’s sudden resurgence is the return of point guard Elfrid Payton, who played 17 minutes and scored eight points and recorded seven assists in the win. With Payton back in the lineup, Orlando has regained its form from early on in the season. The Magic (8-4) will continue their trip out west with another contest against a Western Conference foe in the Denver Nuggets (7-5), which is slated for a 9 p.m. tip at the Pepsi Center.

”I did raise my voice about our transition defense,” Orlando coach Frank Vogel said about his team’s defense. ”There are some things we are supposed to execute that have nothing to do with urgency. It just has to do with being smart, which we weren’t doing.”

Though transition defense might be a problem for Orlando right now, scoring on the other hand is certainly not of any concern. The Magic had six players in double digits, including Nikola Vucevic (19 points), Terrance Ross (17 points), Jonathan Simmons (17 points), Evan Fournier (14 points) and rookie Jonathan Isaac (11 points). Orlando shot 52 percent from the field and knocked down 13-of-28 3-pointers attempted on the night.

Sharing the basketball was key for Orlando, with Vogel’s group compiling 29 assists compared to Phoenix’s 13. The game wasn’t a blowout by no means in the opening half, as Orlando held a slim 64-63 lead at intermission. A big third quarter would prove to be the difference, with the Magic out-scoring the Suns 33-20 in the period. Orlando is currently to No. 3 team in the Eastern Conference behind only Boston (11-2) and Detroit (9-3), respectively.

About The Author

Andy Villamarzo has covered high school and youth sports for the Tampa Bay Times and The Tampa Tribune as a correspondent since 2008. He is a native of Holiday, FL, who graduated from Gulf High School and studied at St. Petersburg College. He has covered various prep, collegiate and professional athletes throughout his writing career, including Josh Johnson (Jacksonville Jaguars), Patrick Schuster (Arizona Diamondbacks) and currently writes for other publications like The Suncoast News, Friday Night Football Magazine and

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