Orlando Magic at Sacramento Kings: Game Preview

Cole Anthony
by Dan Savage

SACRAMENTO – Each night in the NBA offers its own unique challenge.

One game after facing a Golden State Warriors squad that thrives on the perimeter and uses aggressive defense to capitalize on mistakes, the Orlando Magic travel to Sacramento where they’ll go head-to-head with a Kings team that punishes teams in the paint and boasts one of the league’s best bench scoring units.

The Magic (5-20) will look to secure the interior and bounce back from a tough night against the Warriors when they visit the Kings (10-14) on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET.

“Their guards do a great job of attacking the paint whether that’s in transition or in the half court,” said Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley. “They’re a high pick-and-roll team, so them downhill (attacking) in the lane as well as they do a great job of throwing the lob to their bigs that are rolling to the rim.”

Sacramento ranks fourth in the NBA in points in the paint, posting 49.5 of them per game. Center Richaun Holmes and point guard De’Aaron Fox both are top 20 in the league in that category, averaging a combined 21.6 points in the paint per game.

“It’s very important (to protect the interior),” said Magic center Mo Bamba, whose team is limiting the opposition to just 42.6 points in the paint per contest this season, sixth best in the association. “We know that De’Aaron is one of the fastest guards in the league and at any given moment he can sneak drive and get to the rim. He can get to the cup and that’s when this Kings team is at their best.”

Orlando will have to remain diligent even when Sacramento breaks its lineup as the Kings are averaging 39.2 bench points per game, which is fourth most in the NBA. Sacramento guard Buddy Hield, coincidentally, also ranks fourth among all players in that category, firing off 16.2 points per contest.

“Buddy coming off the bench is big for them,” said Mosley. “He’s taking about ten threes per game and his ability to get going is what we have to be alert for. Again, their bench unit comes out playing faster (and) they look to get up and down the floor. We have to make sure we’re getting back in transition all night, showing a wall, and creating havoc on them defensively.”

The Magic will once again attempt to limit their turnovers. Orlando's 18 giveaways against Golden State were converted into 38 points and helped the Warriors cruise to a 126-95 victory on Monday.

“Obviously, the number one thing we’re going to continue to grow and get better at is ball security,” Mosley explained. “Understanding where and when we need to make passes (and) quick decisions. If you’re open, shoot it. If you’re not, move it or drive it.”

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Offensively, we need to continue to move the ball and share with each other. We have a group of a lot of unselfish guys. And defensively, we just need to communicate and just be together.” – Bamba on the keys tonight against the Kings

KEY STAT: After scoring in double figures in just one of his first 12 games this season, Gary Harris has now hit that mark in six of the Magic’s last seven games. Over that span, the Michigan State alum is averaging 11.6 points while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor.

The 6-foot-4 guard had his best offensive output of the season against the Warriors on Monday, scoring a season-high 17 points while going 6-for-10 from the floor and 3-for-6 from 3-point range.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time, just trying to continue to get better, jell (and) mesh with the squad,” Harris said. “We’re all trying to figure it out. I’m able to hit some shots. I’m feeling good, but I’m worried about trying to help get these wins and help get these turnovers down. I feel good, but we still have a lot of work to do.”

IN AND OUT: Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain), and Jalen Suggs (fractured right thumb) all remain out for Orlando.

For Sacramento, Harrison Barnes (sprained right foot) and Maurice Harkless (left knee soreness) are questionable, while Neemias Queta (G League – Two Way), Jahmi’us Ramsey (G League – on assignment), and Robert Woodard II (G League – on assignment) are out.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by Sacramento Kings TV analyst Kayte Christensen, who covers the team for NBC Sports California. She was kind enough to take the time and provide her insight on the Kings.

Savage: “The Kings were the first team this season to make a coaching change. Obviously, it’s difficult to make drastic changes mid-season, but what have been the biggest differences since Alvin Gentry took over for Luke Walton?”

Christensen: “I think the biggest one is pace. Obviously, Alvin Gentry is known for that style of play with his ‘seven seconds or less’ days with the Suns. So, that’s something that’s changed. Definitely with verbiage in terms of you see him on the sidelines constantly (saying words) like ‘push it, push it.’ But I’m curious, actually, how (Wednesday’s) game is going to go because this is the first time since he’s taken over that they’ve had an opportunity for some extended practices. So, that is definitely one, pace of play, and what’s he’s trying to accomplish on that end.

Also, some different lineups. We’ve seen more of Marvin Bagley. We’ve seen Terence Davis in the starting lineup in place of Moe Harkless, who’s been injured. Terence had fallen out of the rotation because he really started out the season struggling enormously from the field. But he’s been playing more. So, it’s really been more about lineups. Alvin is one of those guys where if there’s a group that’s playing well on the floor together, he rolls with them. So, we’ve had (close to) whole halves where Damian Jones is playing big minutes and playing well. Chimezie Metu has been up and down, in the starting lineup with Luke Walton, and then he didn’t play a few games with Alvin. Then, he’s been in the starting lineup because Harrison Barnes has been out. So, it’s really just more about that. How he approaches rolling with guys that are working. Those are probably the two biggest changes.”

Savage: “Magic fans will get their first look at rookie Davion Mitchell. What have you seen from him since he’s become a member of the Kings?”

Christensen: “He’s so much fun to watch. It’s weird because in this day and age in the NBA, you don’t really talk about defenders that much and you don’t really see a lot of, especially perimeter defenders, that will pick up full court. He still has a lot to learn on that end because I think that he’s such a defensive-minded player that he tries to fight over everything. So, learning situations on the floor. If you’re at the mid-court line you don’t need to be fighting over a screen. Those types of things. But his one-on-one defense is just something really fun to watch. How he kind of gets down and stays in front of players and sacrifices his body. He’s been great on that end.

Offensively, he’s still acclimating to the NBA. That’s another thing we’re seeing a little bit more of right now is a lot more situations where he’s just penetrating and getting to the rim and seeing how well he finishes in those situations. Because when he was at Baylor, there was a lot of iso stuff for him. He did really well in those situations. But you don’t get as many iso opportunities in the NBA. So, he’s figuring it out. He’ll shoot well from three for a while, then he’ll struggle a little bit. But I think that’s just your typical rookie acclimation process.”

Savage: “De’Aaron Fox is a guard that likes to play with pace. How is he adjusting to the coaching change and what’s stood out to you about him this season?”

Christensen: “He struggled from the beginning, and I think a lot of the struggles, in my opinion, came from kind of being off ball in the half-court sets. Because his three-point numbers are down even more than last year. I think it was his second year that he had actually a pretty decent three-point percentage on the season, but that was kind of the lone year so far. So, for him being off ball and being more in the half court, it took him out of a lot of situations where he can do what he does best, which is just use his speed. I’ve noticed this year, no matter when he has the ball and he goes into the paint, they are packing it in so much. He’s figuring out how to still be effective. With them playing with pace a little bit more (after the coaching change), there have been more opportunities for him to get the ball in the open floor and just push it. So, that’s where he’s at his best. His numbers aren’t great, I would say, but they’re not bad. They’ve definitely gotten better since the start of the season. The first five or six games, if memory serves, were difficult for him. But he’s still putting up good numbers and he’s starting to get his turnovers numbers down a little bit more as he’s figuring out how defenses are playing him and kind of how he fits into this system offensively now.”

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