The Orlando Magic's home losing streak reached four games Saturday against the hot-shooting Sacramento Kings, 105-100. Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas scored 23 apiece for the visitors, who won their second straight game at Amway Center.
Orlando got 26 points from Arron Afflalo and an additional 21 from Tobias Harris, but the Magic couldn't keep pace with the Kings from beyond the arc: Sacramento shot 12-of-23 from three-point range. Meanwhile, in a game they lost by five points, Orlando left nine points at the charity stripe.
Orlando had no trouble scoring against Sacramento's defense, which ranks among the league's worst, in the opening period: the Magic shot 61.1 percent from the floor and 4-of-6 on threes, getting almost whatever looks they wanted with ease. Jameer Nelson and Afflalo scored seven points apiece to lead the home team, while Harris added six.
Interestingly, the Magic used Harris to initiate their offense on some first-quarter possessions with Nelson on the bench and Victor Oladipo as the nominal point guard.
A three-pointer from Ben McLemore with 4:12 to play tied the score at 19, but Orlando responded by closing the period on a 12-6 run to take a six-point lead. An Afflalo triple off a Nikola Vučević back-tapped rebound gave Orlando an eight-point lead, its largest of the night.
The Kings closed the gap early in the second quarter, however, with Jimmer Fredette hitting a long deuce and following that basket up two possessions later with a deep three to cut Orlando's lead to a point.
But Sacramento's reserve unit--with Rudy Gay as the only starter--couldn't score consistently enough to keep the game close, and within another three minutes, Orlando had pushed its lead back to eight points, its largest of the night.
No combination of starters or reserves that Kings coach Mike Malone used in the first half could keep Orlando from scoring: the hosts put up points on five straight possessions in the second period at one juncture, with only a missed Kyle O'Quinn putback layup from point-blank range keeping that streak from extending to six.
But the Magic couldn't put the Kings away as the visitors found the range from beyond the arc, with a Gay triple at the 2:41 mark of the second bringing Sacramento to within five, the closest they'd been in nearly seven minutes of game time. Gay scored another trey from the same spot on Sacramento's next trip to cut Orlando's lead to two.
That two-point margin held at halftime, with Orlando setting a season-high in first-half points scored at 58. Whichever team tightened its defense first woud likely find itself the victor.
The Kings took their first lead of the game 44 seconds ino the second half on a DeMarcus Cousins layup. Nelson tied the game on the Magic's ensuing possession, but the Magic would go scoreless on their next five trips up the floor, allowing the Kings to build a six-point lead. Davis ended the drought with a sweeping lefty hook the likes of which Orlando hasn't seen since Dwight Howard's departure.
After picking the Kings apart in the first half, the Magic's offense stagnated in the early stages of the third quarter as they tried to exploit individual matchups in the post. The downside to running a post-heavy offense is that the ball tends to stick on one side of the floor, allowing opposing off-ball defenders to relax a bit.
When the Magic pinged the ball around the floor again, they went on a 9-0 run to take a three-point lead with 4:51 to go in the period, prompting Malone to call for time.
After falling behind by four points again, the Magic got back into the game thanks to some of Maurice Harkless' energy. The reserve forward grabbed a key offensive rebound to set Oladipo up for a layup and-one to cut the Kings' lead to one, and Harkless rebounded the Kings' next miss and pushed it ahead to Oladipo for a transition layup to take the lead.
Orlando's lead held at two entering the fourth quarter, but Gay drilled a trailing three on the Kings' first possession--his third triple of the night--to put Sacramento up by one. They'd extend their lead to five points on a fading jumper by Isaiah Thomas, who creates so much separation with his step back move that it hardly matters that he stands just 5-foot-9 when he shoots.
A triple from the little-used Marcus Thornton on the Kings' next trip put them up by eight, giving them their largest lead of the night. He'd hit two more threes in the next 90 seconds to push the lead to 12 points.
Harris came up with three big plays down the stretch, drilling a three after shaking Gay with a jab-step to cut the Kings' lead to seven and following that play up with a fast-break layup over Cousins, whom referees whistled for blocking on the play. He missed the ensuing free throw, but Orlando still found itself within five points with ess than four minutes to play.
Harris then came up with a loose ball on the Kings' next possession and quickly advanced it to Afflalo for a breakaway layup, but the veteran swingman couldn't convert under pressure from Thomas, nor could Harris corral the rebound.
Thornton badly missed a wide-open corner three which would nearly have iced the game, but Cousins snared the rebound, laid the ball in, and drew a foul on Nikola Vučević, the Montenegrin big man's sixth of the night. He finished with four points and nine boards on 2-of-6 shooting against the burly Kentucky product, who failed to convert the three-point play but got his own rebound and drew another shooting foul. He split those free throws to put the Kings up eight with 2:37 to go.
Harris came up big again with a driving layup and-one going to his left on the Magic's next play, but he missed the free throw.
The Magic had three chances to cut the lead to two points with less than one minute to play, but Oladipo, Davis, and Afflalo all missed layups on one possession. The last miss went out of bounds off Sacramento, giving Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn the opportunity to draw up a play. Oladipo tried to inbound the ball to Afflalo, but Afflalo slipped as Oladipo made the pass and the ball sailed out of bounds.
The Kings broke Orlando's press on their next trip, with Gay finding Thomas for a leaning 12-footer which the diminutive Washington product banked off the glass to give the visitors a six-point edge. Orlando committed a five-second violation after their next timeout, effectively icing the game for the Kings.