Orlando and Sacramento both enter tonight's tilt with identical 20-45 records on the season, and for the invested fan there will be a couple of different ways to determine victory.
The basketball purist will rely on the scoreboard to anoint a winner, simply calculating the total value of each made basket from both sides and rewarding the spoils to the team that happens to score the most points on the evening. Shots from inside the arc will be worth two points apiece, three for those from beyond the line, successful free throws will each add one, and a home run is from behind the meatballs. This is long the way that basketball has been played and will be immediately familiar to any with even a passing interest in the sport.
There is, however, a second way of measuring success and failure this evening. It requires a commitment to a ... shadier side of the game and tends to be followed by those with an appetite for self-inflicted misery and extended suffering. For you see, this game is also of the double-tank spectacular variety, which is to say that the long term interests of both sides may in fact be further advanced with a loss. With the playoffs out of the picture the only race of importance left is that to the bottom of the standings, where plentiful ping-pong balls and the promise of potential await. Those that subscribe to this theory -- the tank commanders -- long only for the L.
Regardless of your viewing perspective, the players that take the court for both the Magic and the Kings will want to win this game in the traditional sense. For Orlando this may in fact present the biggest hurdle, as injuries galore will severely hamper their ability to trot out an optimum line up. Aaron Gordon is out with a concussion, Evan Fournier is likely facing a lengthy stint on the sideline, and DJ Augustin is only probable after tweaking an ankle. With Terrence Ross still on the shelf that means the vast majority of the starting unit may be MIA. Forget clock malfunctions and jump balls - The Magic simply might not have the horses to win this race.
As for the Kings, they are and remain in perpetuity the Kangz, so who knows what we'll get tonight. They've actually won 2 of the 4 games played so far on their current home stand, and despite insisting that they plan to develop their youth they keep trotting out Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and Kosta Koufos for meaningful minutes in just about every contest. They might be playing to win, they might be tanking, and tonight might even be the night they play 4-on-5 defense in their bid to deploy an unstoppable cherry-picker. Only time will tell.
As always, be sure to dive in and join both the pre and in game discussion below!