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Kings 121, Magic 107: Magic struggle against the league’s worst defense

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The Magic trailed from start to finish in an ugly loss

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

A Magic team that has been shooting the ball well of late, making nearly 50 percent of their attempts from deep over its last three games. A Kings team that has historically terrible on the defensive end, allowing over 120 points per game.

Seems like a good combination for the Magic, right?

Not so much.

The Magic suffered what was arguably their ugliest loss of the season. They never led, trailed by as many as 22, and lost to the Kings 121-107.

The Kings, coming off a four-day layoff, got off to a quick start. Buddy Hield scored seven points in the opening five minutes, including a pull-up jumper that gave the Kings a 20-9 lead with 7:01 remaining. It took more than nine minutes before someone on the Magic not named Nikola Vucevic or Evan Fournier scored a point, with the two scoring eight each for the Magic’s first 16 points. That non-Vooch/Fournier drought ended when Terrence Ross hit a three with just under three minutes remaining in the first to pull the Magic within 26-19.

Tyrese Haliburton and Hield closed the quarter with a pair of threes to help send the Kings into the second quarter up 32-23. The Kings opened the game hitting 5 of 7 attempts from deep, and shooting 54.5% from the field overall. The Magic shot just 30.8%, with Aaron Gordon missing all five of his field goal attempts and Cole Anthony going 0-for-3.

The Magic pulled within two after a three by Vooch made it 39-37 with 7:12 to go in the half. The Kings rebuilt their lead and then made it a comfortable one when a Hield three ignited a 10-0 run that gave the Kings a 65-48 lead with just under one minute left in the second.

The Kings shot 50% from the field in the half and hit 9 of 17 three-point attempts. They also grabbed 11 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second-chance points. Add it all up and they took a 65-50 lead into the break. Hield had 15 at the half while Harrison Barnes and Marvin Bagley had 11 each.

The Magic shot just 37.3% in the half, with Vucevic and Fournier leading the way with 13 each. Ross added 9.

The Kings’ lead grew to 20 following an 11-2 run that was capped by a Bagley runner that made it 82-62 with 6:52 left in the third. The Magic shot 46% in the third but failed to get to the free throw line in the third, while the Kings went 9-for-13 after getting into the bonus with more than half the quarter remaining. Orlando wouldn’t get any closer than 16 points in the third, and trailed 96-77 heading into the fourth.

The Magic chipped away early in the fourth, with a three-point play by Vucevic pulling Orlando within 100-88 with 8:41 left. But the Kings, as they did all night, had a response with Hield hitting three and Barnes finding a far too easy path to the basket to build the lead back up to 17.

When the Magic again trimmed the lead to 13, Hield drained a contested three with the shot clock winding down to make it 116-100 with 3:41 to go.

The Magic had a chance to cut the deficit to single digits following a three by Fournier and hook shot by Vooch, but Fournier missed a three, and on the ensuing Magic possession, Ross turned the ball over on a sloppy pass that led to a dunk at the other end for Haliburton (the Kings scored 23 points off 14 Magic turnovers).

That led Steve Clifford to empty the bench, with even Mo Bamba making a cameo.

It was a balanced effort for the Kings, with all five starters scoring in double figures. Hield led the way with 29 (hitting 7 of 12 three-point attempts. De-Aaron Fox added 16 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds (though he struggled from the field, going 4-for-17). Richaun Holmes had 20 points and 12 rebounds (and also frustrated Vucevic on the defensive end). Barnes added 21 points (on 8-for-11 shooting). Bagley added 16 points and 12 rebounds (in just 22 minutes).

Vucevic finished with 26 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Magic, who shot 41.7% from the field and ended their three-game streak of shooting over 40% from deep by going 10-for-26 (38.5%). Fournier had 25 points (7-for-15 shooting) and 4 assists. Ross had 16 points and Bacon added 12. Khem Birch had eight points and a career-high 14 rebounds, 10 of which were on the offensive end. Aaron Gordon had what may have been his worst game of the season, finishing with just 3 points on 1-for-9 shooting with five assists, four turnovers and four fouls.

Doesn’t get any easier for a Magic team that has now dropped 9 of 11 games...actually, it gets a lot harder as they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to town on Friday.