Orlando Magic 100, Sacramento Kings 84

The Orlando Magic's defense carried them to an ugly win over the Sacramento Kings, 100-84, in a game that you're not going to want to revist on NBA League Pass. Six Magic players blocked at least one shot attempt, the Kings shot 33.4% from the field (and a frigid 41.4% at the rim, one of the worst such performances of any team all year), and only a late scoring spurt by the Kings against what might be the Magic's worst possible lineup made the score look somewhat respectable. Dwight Howard continued his magnificent play with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and an 11-of-12 showing at the foul line, while Rashard Lewis had his fourth consecutive strong offensive showing, with 15 points and 3 three-pointers. Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson also looked much-improved. In short, it was another dominant performance from the Magic at home, which bodes well for them moving forward. Tyreke Evans led Sacramento with 19 points, Jason Thompson added 10, and third-string point guard Sergio Rodriguez scored 8 in garbage time. They were the only Kings to record more points than field-goal attempts.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Kings 102 82.6 35.5% 19.4 27.1 16.7
Magic 99 100.6 48.0% 39.2 20.0 23.1
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

Now, maybe I was too kind to the Magic in the opening paragraph. Even with the lopsided nature of the game, their team-wide offensive numbers give a decent indication of how poorly this game treated my eyes. Mickael Pietrus missed a three-pointer long and to the right by about 3 feet, Ryan Anderson committed 4 turnovers in 14 minutes despite hardly touching the ball to do anything other than shoot it, Marcin Gortat took a long jumper in transition, and Brandon Bass missed some of the long jumpers that have become automatic for him. Nope, this wasn't a game to remember.

But you'll notice the guys I just named have one thing in common: they're reserves. The starting unit played well, for the most part. Carter, for instance, scored in double-figures for the first time since New Year's Day. For the second straight game, he played more within the flow of the offense and forced few, if any, looks. 7 shots attempts in 26 minutes for Carter, of which he made 4 for his first over-50% shooting performance in a game he finished since December 30th. And though he didn't register any assists, he still looked to be more patient and willing passer. It's my belief that he's stopped trying to force the issue offensively. This performance and approach to the game is what the Magic need more of.

Nelson, too, was splendid. The offense worked so much better with him at the helm. He was intent on pushing the ball in transition and, even in the half-court, probing the lane to draw defenders. It's the same way he played last year, when he earned an All-Star berth. We should have known he was about to turn in a solid outing when he drove to the rim for a layup, and-1, over Kings center Jon Brockman. Too often this year Nelson has settled for the outside jumper, or otherwise stayed out of the lane. Not so this evening. Aggressive, and just what the Magic needed on a night where their offense struggled to make shots. The day of rest must have done him some good.

J.J. Redick, though, might wind up being tonight's MVP. He replaced Carter after a sluggish start and promptly scored 6 straight points: a pull-up jumper off a screen on which he drew a foul and converted a free throw, followed by a corner three-pointer after Howard snared Redick's own miss and kicked it back out to him for another try. The trey gave Orlando a 16-12 lead, which it would not relinquish. Bizarrely, the Kings cooled off in an extreme way after hitting three early three-pointers, one of which the officials later disallowed after video review showed that Donté Greene did not release the ball before the shot-clock expired. The game, which started with the Kings hitting jumpers and the Magic turning the ball over 4 of their first 7 possessions, immediately swung in Orlando's favor once Sacramento starting missing, from everywhere, and at times in spectacular fashion.

Orlando's put together 3 straight good performances, and 2 straight wins. Building momentum before the schedule stiffens. Positive signs, but clearly the Magic aren't where they need to be. The key is that they're slightly closer than they were a week ago. Progress.

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