Magic host Kings, aim for 2nd straight win
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Positive momentum for a team with the second-worst record in the NBA is hard to quantify, but the Orlando Magic are feeling better about the events of the last week.
In the last week, the Magic faced four winning teams and split those games. They beat Minnesota and Boston while sustaining close losses to Washington and Cleveland.
On Tuesday, Orlando gets a crack at getting consecutive wins for the first time in over two months when it hosts the Sacramento Kings.
The Magic (14-32) are tied with Atlanta for the second-worst record in the league. The last time they won consecutive games occurred with wins over New York and Phoenix Nov. 8-10.
Those victories were part of a surprising 8-4 start. Since then, the Magic are 6-26 in their last 32 contests. They were dealt five single-digit losses during a seven-game losing streak from Dec. 30-Jan. 12.
The last game of that skid was a 125-119 loss at Washington. Orlando then beat Minnesota by six last Tuesday and nearly completed a comeback from 23 points down at Cleveland Thursday. On Sunday, the Magic recorded a 103-95 win at Boston despite allowing 40 points to Kyrie Irving.
"I think it says a lot about our toughness because we played well today," Orlando's Elfrid Payton told reporters. "Everybody, collectively, all played well and it's all about transferring it over to the next game. ... We're scratching for wins anywhere and not just (in Boston). It feels good to get a win because we felt we played well against the Cavs (on Thursday) and to get the win this time feels great."
Payton scored 22 while Evan Fournier added 19. Both of Orlando's starting guards are trending upwards.
Although Payton scored six last Tuesday, he is averaging 18.5 points in his last four games. Fournier is averaging 22.6 in his last three games.
"I don't know if you can talk about momentum," Fournier told reporters at practice Monday. "I just think we are playing really hard right now. We're not thinking about the next game or the next 30 games or the All-Star break right now. We're just being in the moment competing right now, and I think that's why we play good."
Orlando also posted 62 points in the paint and is averaging 55.7 inside during the last seven games despite missing center Nikola Vucevic for the last month due to a broken bone in his left hand.
Sacramento (13-33) holds the league's worst record and is on a season-high eight-game losing streak. The Kings also are 2-13 since getting a 104-99 win at Brooklyn at Dec. 20.
Sacramento is on an eight-game skid for the third time in four seasons. Its last nine-game skid occurred from March 31-April 13, 2009.
During this skid, Sacramento is averaging 99.3 points, shooting 44.8 percent, including 38 percent from 3-point range. Defensively, the Kings are allowing 110.8 points and opponents to shoot 48.8 percent.
Sacramento's skid continued with Monday's 112-107 loss at Charlotte. The Kings trailed by 17 after the third quarter after allowing the Hornets to shoot 50.8 percent and make 15 of 30 3-pointers but they outscored Charlotte by 12 in the final 12 minutes.
"We've all got to come collectively as a group and want to win," Sacramento's Buddy Hield told reporters. "It's tough when you're not winning. You've got to learn how to win and it's a learning process right now how to finish games when you're down 10, 12, with five minutes to go and try to find a way to execute."
Skal Labissiere led the Kings with 23 while Hield added 18. Center Willie Cauley-Stein shot 5 of 20 and is shooting 23.3 percent (7 of 30) in his last two games after getting 26 Wednesday vs. Utah.
Garrett Temple and Zach Randolph sat out Monday as the Kings continue to rest veterans to get a look at younger players. George Hill, who was the starting point guard, only played 19 minutes and is a candidate to be traded before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.
The teams are meeting in Orlando for the first time since the Magic posted a 102-94 win on Nov. 3, 2016. Of the 10 players to appear in that game for Sacramento, only Kosta Koufos, Cauley-Stein and Temple remain on the team.
Updated January 23, 2018