FINAL: ORLANDO MAGIC 106, SACRAMENTO KINGS 102


GameNight Specifics
NBA Coverage: Game Info
Date: Wednesday, March 9
Time: 10 p.m.
Location: Power Balance Pavilion (SACRAMENTO, CA)
Radio: AM 580 WDBO, AM 1270 WRLZ
Television: FS Florida



PROJECTED MATCHUPS

LINEUPS MAY CHANGE BY GAME TIME


TEAM
PG
SG
C
PF
SF
R
R
MAGIC
Jameer Nelson

Jason Richardson

Dwight Howard

Brandon Bass

Hedo Turkoglu

JJ Redick

Gilbert Arenas
KINGS
Beno Udrih

Marcus Thornton

DeMarcus Cousins

Jason Thompson

Omri Casspi

Samuel Dalembert

Donte Greene





















GAME RECAP


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) Gilbert Arenas was watching his Orlando Magic teammates from the bench, seemingly headed for another ugly loss when it happened. Jameer Nelson just took over.

Nelson scored 12 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Magic to a 106-102 victory over the lowly Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night, avoiding what would have been another embarrassing loss to one of the NBA's worst teams.

"I call it wonderman basketball," Arenas said. "He's out there, but he's not out there."

At times, it seemed the Magic weren't out there at all.

Dwight Howard returned from a one-game suspension to finish with 16 points and 15 rebounds but fouled out late, and Jason Richardson scored 19 points to help the Magic overcome an eight-point deficit in a sloppy effort that opened a five-game road trip.

"We played poorly. We didn't put much into the game, got crushed on the glass. I'm not happy, but we got a win. We'll take it and move on," said a frustrated Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who was uncharacteristically short on answers. "We've said (we'll change) a lot. We say a lot of things."

DeMarcus Cousins had 29 points and Marcus Thornton finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists for the Kings, who collapsed late in a game they controlled for most of the way. Sacramento finished with 21 turnovers.

"There were so many really good things about that game for our team. I just hate to come in here and talk about that close loss against a good team, but that's what it was," Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said. "We had too many turnovers again and it wasted a really, really, good effort."

Orlando flexed its muscles just enough to come out on top.

The Magic took their first lead of the fourth quarter, 98-97, on Richardson's 3-pointer with a little more than three minutes left. The teams traded baskets, then Nelson answered with an 18-foot jumper to extend Orlando's lead to three.

Howard, who was automatically suspended in a loss against Portland after picking up his 16th technical foul, fouled out with 61 seconds left, but the Magic closed out Sacramento without their All-Star center. Hedo Turkoglu followed with a 3-pointer that put the Magic ahead by five.

Orlando missed three straight free throws and nearly let the Kings back. But Luther Head's potential tying 3-pointer in the final seconds rimmed out, sealing another loss for a Kings franchise that has fallen on hard times.

The Kings, who had another spotty crowd, are in talks about moving the franchise south to Anaheim. They were again without leading scorer and reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans, still trying to come back from plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

Even so, they still had a chance to win.

"We didn't play well," Nelson said. "It's getting toward the end of the year, we can't continue to play this way and think that it's OK. It just doesn't change. Nobody can do it but us."

Orlando was surely glad to have its star back.

The game was the first since Howard served the NBA's first suspension for excessive technical fouls this season. Players are suspended one game on their 16th technical foul and every two technicals after that.

The Magic lost 89-85 to Portland on Monday night without Howard, and they desperately need him in peak form if they have any hope to make it back to the Eastern Conference finals for a third straight year.

Cousins, Head and Samuel Dalembert were called for technical fouls for Sacramento. Nelson also was whistled for a technical for arguing.

The Kings saddled Howard in foul trouble to build an eight-point lead in the second quarter with him mostly on the bench. After Howard picked up his fourth foul with 10:58 remaining in the third quarter, Van Gundy decided to take his chances and stick with his big man.

Howard helped the Magic go ahead 67-64 and stayed clear of picking up his fifth foul early. They Kings took a 79-76 lead after three quarters but never could pull away big.

"We've got to cut down on the turnovers," Cousins said. "That's really hurting us down the stretch."

NOTES: Magic PF Ryan Anderson grew up near Sacramento rooting for the Kings. He said the possibility that the franchise could move and leave the area without an NBA team is a difficult scenario to imagine. "It would be weird. It would be tough for a lot of people. There are still a lot of Kings fans," he said. ... The Kings wore the retro uniforms of the Rochester Royals. ... Richardson played despite a severe cold and congestion.





COHEN'S ANALYSIS VS. KINGS


It’s a peculiar enigma, but for reasons mysterious to most, the lowly Sacramento Kings cause problems for the Orlando Magic.

Already a victim a couple of weeks ago to the infantile, but spirited, northern California men in purple and black, the Magic once again found themselves in a barnburner with this same opponent.

But unlike that disappointing night at Amway Center, Orlando – behind a splendid fourth-quarter performance from Jameer Nelson and a clutch 3-pointer from Hedo Turkoglu – figured out a way to eclipse Sacramento and earn some revenge with Wednesday’s victory.

Similar to some of his other spectacular late-game efforts this season – including one recently against the Knicks – Nelson caught fire in the final several minutes and scored eight consecutive Magic points in one stretch. He finished with a season-matching-high 26 points on 11-of-17 shooting from the field.

The most noteworthy single shot, though, was Turkoglu’s with 40 seconds remaining when he drained a wide open 3-pointer from the left wing to extend Orlando’s advantage to five and all but make it virtually impossible for the Kings to overcome.

Observably delighted and invigorated to be back in action following his one-game absence, Dwight Howard didn’t waste any time making an impact on Wednesday.

On the first very possession in Sacramento, Howard effortlessly spun on his defender and flushed home a thunderous one-handed dunk as he immediately made it apparent that he was back and ready to lead his team to a victory.

In spite of dealing with foul trouble throughout and ultimately being disqualified in the final two minutes, D12 recorded his franchise-best 22nd consecutive double-double with 16 points and 15 rebounds.

Most impressive about Howard’s performance, however, was the fact that he managed to play superlative defense -- blocking a total of three shots and consistently forcing Sacramento to attempt contested shots in the paint without being excessively aggressive – while dealing with foul issues.

“I think I did a good job of keeping my composure tonight," Howard said.

Aside from analyzing any statistical category or evaluating any notable trends from the game, here are some implicit reactions from the win:

• It’s becoming a repetitive argument but there is almost no reason to stop addressing it: Howard should, by and large, be the frontrunner in the MVP race.

No disrespect to the other candidates such as Derrick Rose or Dirk Nowitzki, who indisputably are enjoying spectacular seasons, but Howard’s “value” seems far greater than the other contenders because of how much he alters the complexion of a game.

In contrast from Orlando’s defeat to Portland when Superman was suspended, the Magic noticeably forced the Kings to rely on perimeter jump shots in the second half because of Howard’s intimidating presence.

• It remains a mystery how much pain Turkoglu, who was posting extraordinary statistical marks when he first arrived back in Orlando following December’s two blockbuster trades, is feeling in his right elbow.

While sitting on the bench, Turk was noticeably feeling some aggravation as he kept stretching his arm out in hopes of relieving some of the discomfort. Before any injury-related issues had come up, Hedo looked like the player of old – registering a triple-double in one game and dishing out a career-best 17 assists in another.

• Stan Van Gundy was evidently frustrated following the game because of the team’s lack of defensive intensity and execution. While the hope is that ultimately by the start of the postseason this team will develop some degree of defensive terrorization, there is some reservation about it considering the type of team that is constructed.

Unlike last season when the Magic were more focused on winning through defense, this team since the trades is much more likely to outscore opponents with their premier outside shooters and ability to speed up the game in transition.

Based on what we have witnessed over the last couple of months, the Magic generally play well when they effectively finish fast breaks. On Wednesday, Orlando accumulated 16 fast break points, while Sacramento just had five.

• Especially with the Miami Heat reeling -- losing five straight and the L.A. Lakers coming to South Beach on Thursday -- this road trip for the Magic is a golden opportunity to make a final push for the division title.

Currently just 2.5 back, Orlando travels slightly southward to Oakland for a meeting with the Warriors on Friday and visits the Suns on Sunday for what should be a spectacle considering it will be the first time it plays Phoenix since December's trade. It, subsequently, will square off against the Lakers on Monday and finishes its five-game road trip in Milwaukee next Wednesday.

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