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SACRAMENTO – Oh, how quickly things can change in 24 hours.
“Defense wins in the NBA and tonight we didn’t defend anybody,” lamented Kings coach Michael Malone.
The Kings (10-10) were exploited by Tobias Harris, who poured in a game-high 27 points, while four more Magic (9-14) reached double-figures as Orlando won 105-96 on Saturday at Sleep Train Arena.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Kings struggle in third, fall to Magic]
Orlando, on the second of a back-to-back after defeating the Jazz in Utah on Friday, made five of their first six shots jumping out to an early 11-7 lead.
But more importantly, they were oozing energy in the final game of its six-game road trip.
“From the jump ball, it went wrong,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “We just didn’t defend anybody. You can’t allow a team, who’s coming in here with four games in five nights, to start the game as comfortable as they did."
“Defense, sense of urgency – we didn’t show a sense of urgency until later on in the game,” said point guard Darren Collison when asked what went wrong. “Right now we’re an inconsistent team defensively as a group.
“Today was one of our worst games as far as defense and not being on the same page, there was a lot of miscommunication. ”
The Magic sensed the defensive dysfunction and capitalized on it.
Orlando entered the game sixth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage while only attempting 18 3-pointers per night.
However, the Magic amped up the volume going nine-for-26 including Harris’ four-for-five effort from downtown, testing the Kings’ improvement defending the 3-point line on a percentage basis from 29th last season to fifth entering Saturday’s game.
“I give them credit, that’s a hell of a road trip for them,” said Malone. “They went 3-3 and this is their fourth game in five nights, but you’d never be able to tell because of the energy that they played with tonight.”
In addition to playing in the second games of a back-to-back, the Kings and Magic were both without their starting centers in DeMarcus Cousins and Nikola Vucevic, who leads the NBA in double-doubles with 13.
Cousins has missed five straight and the Kings are 1-4 this season and 1-16 over the last two campaigns without the NBA’s seventh leading scorer and top rebounder on the floor.
Malone has stressed that the Kings have enough talent and character in the locker room to win without Cousins as they did on Friday versus Indiana when they jumped out early to a 34-20 first quarter lead over the Pacers.
However, a similar scintillating start was not to be against an Orlando squad that may have looked beatable on paper but secured its seventh road win of the season after only four road wins all of last season.
“We just were not ready to play,” lamented Malone.
Sacramento faced its largest deficit of the night, trailing Orlando by 16 points, when Derrick Williams scored 11 points in a 24-8 run to tie the game at 90 with 3:59 remaining in the game.
Williams was sensational off the bench scoring all of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Sacramento allowed a team with 11 players with three years or less experience in the NBA to come into their building and sniff victory while offering little defensive resistance.
Sacramento’s lone consistency is their inconsistency and if not corrected could prove costly as the schedule of 11 home games in December that appeared so alluring is off to a 1-3 start.
“We are a very inconsistent team,” said Malone.
“When we decide to show up and play defense, we usually win. When we show up and don’t defend or execute and our offense struggles, then we lose. There’s no secret to our success or lack thereof.”