A magical late-game run by De’Aaron Fox and the sharpshooting brilliance of Nemanja Bjelica was almost enough to pull a victory from the jaws of defeat, but with 1.1 seconds to go, Harrison Barnes’ attempt at a game-tying tip-in strayed far from the hoop, and the Kings fell 114-112 to the Orlando Magic.
Fox finished with a career high 31 points to go with 10 assists and 8 rebounds, and had back-to-back dynamic lightning drives at the rim to pull the Kings ahead 112-111 with 15.8 seconds to go. But a long Magic possession—originally stiffed as Evan Fournier couldn’t find an avenue past Fox—ended with Aaron Gordon sneaking in a crazy hookshot and an ensuing free throw. It was another disappointing, failed comeback attempt for the Kings (15-25), who had found themselves down 65-52 at halftime but fought back in the third quarter.
Bjelica also had a career high, scoring 34 points on 13 of 16 shooting while almost single-handedly carrying the Kings scoring load in the first half. Nikola Vucevic led the Magic (19-21) with 26 points and 15 boards, while Fournier finished with 25 points and 6 assists. Orlando came into the contest scoring the least amount of points per contest in the NBA, but exploited the Kings defense throughout the night and stifled multiple Sacramento runs with timeouts followed by runs of their own. The biggest difference of the night; 25 made free throws for the Magic, and only 10 for the Kings.
Sacramento started off the contest with two overly ambitious passes—the first a failed alley-oop from Harry Giles to Fox, and the second a bullet from Bjelica that Buddy Hield fumbled away. Both looked like Kangzly heralds of things to come, especially after the Magic took a 33-25 lead after the first quarter and the Kings committed a whopping 7 turnovers in the period.
Marvin Bagley had a solid return after missing the past two weeks with a foot injury, finishing with 18 points and 6 rebounds. He was best when the Kings were running—surprise, surprise—and he had some excellent plays in the pick-and-roll with Fox. He also played an excellent defensive stretch as the center battling against Vucevic, a promising sight for his future.
Sacramento falls further out of the ugly race for the Western Conferences’ 8th seed as they again failed to take advantage of a very winnable home contest. The schedule only gets tougher from here; the Kings will face off against he-who-shall-not-be-named and the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, before embarking on a 5-game road trip starting Saturday in Utah.