The Magic are coming off a dominant win against arguably the worst team remaining in the field, the Brooklyn Nets, but their offense has been firing on all cylinders since before the hiatus, as they had the league’s top offensive rating in the 10 games before the NBA hit pause. That isn’t great news for a Kings team that has struggled defensively in the bubble, even against a San Antonio team that was missing three of its four leading scorers Friday.
Where: HP Field House, Orlando, FL
When: 3:00 p.m. PT
How to watch/listen: NBA TV, NBC Sports California, Fox Sports Florida, TSN4, KHTK SPORTS 1140 AM
Projected Starting Lineups
Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Harrison Barnes, Nemanja Bjelica, Richaun Holmes
Magic: D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, James Ennis III, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Kings: Marvin Bagley, Alex Len — OUT
Magic: Al-Farouq Aminu — OUT, Wes Iwundu — QUESTIONABLE
In order to get their first win of the seeding games, the Kings will have to get off to a better start than they have in their first four games in Disney World (scrimmages included). Sacramento has been down by at least 12 in the first quarter of each of those four contests, requiring the team to use all of their effort just to get back into the game. It’s an unsustainable model when the games aren’t exhibitions, and opponents will actually play their starters in the fourth quarter.
Against the Spurs, the Kings ran out of gas down the stretch after leading 105-102. The defense didn’t execute, repeatedly allowing Nemanja Bjelica to get switched onto DeMar DeRozan, and the four-time All-Star got to the rack over and over again. Sacramento also surrendered seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter, compared to only two in the previous three. The coaching staff needed to make adjustments to prevent the Kings from being consistently burned by the same play, but defense is also a matter of effort, and it was easy to see that the team was spent after playing catch-up for much of the evening. Rotations are slower and boxing out gets more difficult when a team doesn’t have its legs.
The Magic are shooting 52.0% from the field in the bubble, including 39.5% from 3-point range. Conversely, the Kings are allowing opponents to shoot 38.3% on 3-pointers in the last four games. If Sacramento doesn’t tighten up its defense, things could get out of hand early once again.
“We didn’t close out well on their 3-point shooters. They were moving the ball better than us. They were finding that extra drive and kick,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said after the Spurs game. “I’m not going to say we weren’t ready for that, we didn’t execute it, you know we gotta be honest with ourselves, and that’s what we have to change for next games. Hopefully, you know, our offensive pace can stay the same and if we fix the defense in this short time, we’ll be good.”
The Kings got an incredible offensive performance from Fox Friday, and an excellent shooting night from Bogdanovic. They’ll need the rest of the team to step up against Orlando, particularly Buddy Hield. Hield has been Sacramento’s second-leading scorer but only had six points on 2-of-13 shooting against San Antonio. His ball-handling and shot selection were all over the place, and he has to settle down for the Kings to have a reliable scoring presence when the starters aren’t on the court. Hield played all his minutes with Cory Joseph and/or Fox, so he shouldn’t be tasked with creating for himself; he just needs to find his jump shot.
Technically, no game is a must-win until the Kings are mathematically eliminated from the play-in, but they already lost one game against a team below them in the standings, and they can’t afford to squander more opportunities against opponents with losing records. There was a great deal of excitement heading into the restart because this team legitimately had an opportunity to make the playoffs; the Kings need a victory to keep that hope alive.
For an opposing perspective, check out our friends at Orlando Pinstriped Post. Enjoy the game, and comment below!