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Orlando Magic 106, Sacramento Kings 102

The Orlando Magic locked down the Sacramento Kings defensively after halftime, while Jameer Nelson went on a scoring spree in the fourth quarter to lead the Magic to a 106-102 victory Wednesday night. Nelson scored 12 of his team-high 26 points in the decisive fourth period, mixing drives to the basket with pull-up jumpers off the dribble to keep the Kings' iffy perimeter defense guessing. Indeed, it was the Magic's wing players who keyed the offense tonight, as Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Gilbert Arenas combined for 47 points and 8 three-pointers in support of Nelson.

It should not have taken such a tremendous effort from the Magic's role-players to put them over the top against this Kings team, whose record now stands at 15-47. Sacramento was without its usual starting backcourt of Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans, but you wouldn't know it based on how well it played. The Kings fought hard throughout and, more importantly, made shots in the first half to build their three-point halftime lead.

Orlando limited the Kings to 13-of-43 (30.2 percent) shooting from the floor in the second half, and forced 10 turnovers, but it scarcely mattered because the Kings drew fouls at such a high rate. On the year, Sacramento ranks 28th in the league in free throws per field goal attempt. Rookie big man DeMarcus Cousins shot a career-best 18 freebies and saddled the Magic's Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Anderson with foul trouble.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Magic 99 107.1 55.7% 22.8 14.6 14.1
Kings 99 103.0 44.0% 34.9 34.8 21.2
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.

The Magic should be pleased with the fact that they won, and their lock-down defense after intermission--though one wonders why it took giving up 59 points in 24 minutes to a shorthanded NBA doormat for them to start executing on that end--and with the combination of Nelson and Turkoglu playing to its potential. Most everything else leaves plenty to be desired. Howard ought to have romped against the Kings' frontline, even considering its enviable depth, with Cousins, Samuel Dalembert, and Jason Thompson all logging quality minutes. Instead, he shot just 4-of-8 in 40 minutes and committed 5 turnovers, unable to cope with the Kings' aggressive (and some might say overly hands-on) defense, finishing with 16 points.

I also think Orlando did a solid job preventing the Kings from getting easy baskets in transition. Both teams had 99 possessions, yet Sacramento got just 5 fast break points. This strategy required the Magic punt their offensive rebounds, getting just 6 in 41 tries, but it also prevented the likes of Marcus Thornton and Omri Casspi scoring on runouts. They limited the Kings' chances to capitalize on running opportunities, but their first-half defense suffered anyway because the Kings found seams in their halfcourt defense. Even on a sleepy Wednesday in March against a team of Sacramento's caliber, Orlando can't afford to have such lapses on that end.

With that negativity out of the way, we shouldn't overlook the fact that Orlando outscored the Kings by a 16-7 margin in the game's final 5:18. A corner triple from Casspi had given the hosts a 95-89 lead, but Nelson continued his mini scoring run, then found Richardson near the top of the arc for a triple, which gave the Magic a 98-97 edge. Thompson's tip-in on the Kings' next possession proved to be their last field goal of the game, with Nelson's scoop 15 seconds later giving Orlando a lead it wouldn't relinquish.