Saturday, December 8, 2012

Kings Capitalize in Crunch Time to Down Orlando

I don't think I've seen a stadium name as appropriately odd as the Kings' Sleep Train Arena. The paying patrons in Sacramento probably don't need much coaxing to snooze on their franchise. They're broke and there is little to no cohesion on that roster. A lot of individual talent, but no glue to put it all together. And you know what? It didn't matter tonight. The Kings won 91-82 as the Magic are now 2-2 on this five-game trip. Orlando drops to a 7-12 record as they couldn't survive the rampant action and pace that Sacramento forced down their throats late. The Magic couldn't buy a shot, nor could they stop the Kings from penetrating the paint at will. Once again, defense is the least of this team's issues. 37.5 FG% won't get the job done and neither will getting outrebounded 51-40. 

A late pleasant surprise greeted the Magic before tip, as Tyreke Evans sat out the contest with a sore left knee. Sacramento still had about two thousand guards at their disposal to throw at Jacque Vaughn's ball club as Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas combined for 32 points off the bench to more than pick up the slack for the absent Evans. Glen Davis led the Magic with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson each respectfully posted 18 and 17 points each. 

Glen Davis just doesn't have the basketball instinct to know when it's okay to barrel through the paint and when he needs to just kick out. I don't care if Big Baby posted 8 first quarter points, he was a large reason why Orlando fell behind early. It was deja vu all over again shooting wise as, for the second consecutive game, the Magic began a horrid 3-for-12 from the field. Orlando would be punished for their carelessness and just lack of discipline as the Kings seemed to nab all the loose balls. Sacramento led 25-16 after one period thanks in large part to their 52.4 FG%, and Orlando's puny 36.8 FG%. Aaron Brooks had 9 points in that period. 

I can't emphasize how ridiculously atrocious both teams were playing in certain spurts. I had the urge to facepalm myself on numerous occasions. Saturday marks Andrew Nicholson's 23rd birthday. The rookie began his Kings outing 0-for-3 before Gustavo Ayon fed him a beautiful hot potato pass out of the post for Nicholson's 'And 1' jam. The next Orlando possession saw Redick feeding Andrew for another 'And 1'. It was one of the few watchable Magic moments of the half. Overall, Nicholson had the team's best plus/minus of +8 while contributing 14 points and 5 rebounds off the bench. After a brutal 24 minutes, Kings led 46-34 at the break. Sacramento held a 27-18 rebound advantage at that point. A superior opponent in place of the Kings would've held a twenty or even thirty-point crushing lead.

This game was almost an exact duplicate of Wednesday's Jazz encounter. Sloppy play, missed open scoring opportunities, but still hanging around with a slight chance at victory. Orlando went on a 7-0 run early in the third period to get their deficit in single digits after trailing by fourteen. Jameer Nelson may get nicknamed 'Mr. 3rd Quarter' if his scoring trend continues. Nelson tallied 10 points in the period. Arron Afflalo managed a 9-point quarter of his own.

A Big Baby jumper capped off a completely separate 11-0 Magic run to tie the game at 54-54 with 5:31 to go in the third. I'm still shocked Keith Smart didn't burn a timeout earlier to try and stop the momentum. The Magic run reached 16-0 before DeMarcus Cousins' hook shot suppressed the bleeding. A phenomenal tide change as Jacque's men held a 64-62 advantage going into the final period. 

Credit the Kings for playing uptempo fastbreak basketball in the 4th quarter. No one remind JJ Redick that he was grotesquely outplayed by Jimmer Fredette. Isaiah Thomas showed superb on-the-court leadership and had Sacramento up nine believe before 3-point plays from Jameer and Big Baby had the Magic down 76-79 with 3:32 to go. Hope for another comeback would be extinguished thanks to more unlucky loose balls lost and missed open looks.

Coach Vaughn's crew ran out of gas. That Magic starting lineup appeared more winded and gasping for air than usual. The hustle and effort is always there, but the Magic have now had a few losses this season that really should have been victories. See the Jazz on Wednesday as well as Toronto earlier in the season. Those 'what if' type defeats start racking up and chip away at your confidence in attempting to get to the playoffs. Orlando finishes their road trip in Phoenix on Sunday as they look to salvage a possible 3-2 West Coast record against the Suns.

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