The Orlando Magic played unfettered Friday night, free of the presence of the Kings' DeMarcus Cousins. Orlando was without its own offensive focal point in Nikola Vucevic, but it didn't matter much. The tone was set early on in the Magic's 107-100 win. Without its All-Star big man, who was suspended for berating his coach earlier this week, Sacramento was put in a bind offensively. Orlando was free to unleash its athletic defenders on Sacramento's players one-on-one on defense, and the aggressive approach paid off.
The Magic jumped out to a 12-0 lead right of the gate with a mixture of tenacious defense and a relentless pace in transition. Each time the Kings missed (which was often, as they shot less than 40 percent from the field Friday) the Magic were on the run; outlet pass or not.
Aaron Gordon and Victor Oladipo led the charge.
In the early goings, Gordon forced the issue. He dribbled the ball up on fast breaks, sprinted down the floor without it, and played physical down low, consistently drawing contact. Oladipo, meanwhile, was flying around the court most of the night, pressing the issue on defense, where he pestered Sacramento's guards, and on offense, where he blew by them. Gordon finished the night with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Oladipo tallied 18 points and 5 steals.
The Kings chipped away at the Magic's lead in the second quarter (mostly because Orlando's shots weren't falling, not because Sacramento was able to break through on offense), but the Magic regrouped in the second half and managed to keep the game out of reach for the rest of the night.
The win was a welcome one for Orlando, who has struggled away from home this season. Entering Friday, the Magic (28-36) had lost five of their last seven. Four of those losses were on the road, and this West Coast swing was on its way to becoming more of the same.
A win in Sacramento, though, stops the bleeding, and should give Orlando some confidence before it goes into Portland Saturday to face an imporving Trail Blazers team with a potent backcourt.