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What we learned in Kings' shorthanded loss to Magic

NBC Sports
Haliburton

SACRAMENTO -- The Orlando Magic limped into Golden 1 Center with just nine healthy bodies and playing on the second night of a back-to-back. They walked out of the gym with an improbable 123-112 win over a stunned Kings team.

Riding a 42-point night from NBA All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, Orlando  was the aggressor from the jump. Michael Carter-Williams chipped in a season-high 21 points for the Magic and Terrence Ross got it going from the perimeter with 18 points.

Playing without De’Aaron Fox (left knee contusion) and Marvin Bagley (left calf soreness) for the first time this season, the Kings looked lost, especially on the defensive end. 

Here are three takeaways as the Kings gave one away on their home floor to fall back below the .500 mark on the season at to 12-13. 

Trouble with the big

After giving up a 50-spot to Nikola Jokic last week, the Kings let another big man run them over on Friday night. Vucevic dropped 23 points on Sacramento’s front line before they could even get to the intermission.

The Kings made an adjustment in the second half, running double-teams at the Magic’s center, but the damage was done.

Vucevic finished the night with 42 points on 17-of-22 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 from long range. He scored over the Kings in the post and lit them up from behind the arc. 

Forgotten man

With Bagley out of action, Nemanja Bjelica made an appearance after a 14-game absence. The veteran forward looked invigorated by the layoff and came up big for the Kings.

 

Bjelica, who hasn’t played in 14 games, was tremendous. He finished the game a board shy of a double-double with 15 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 28 minutes. 

Walton has stayed focused on a tight eight-man rotation, but it might be time to give Bjelica a longer look.

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The Hook

Four minutes into the third quarter and Walton had seen enough. He pulled his starters and went to a lineup of Cory Joseph, Kyle Guy, DaQuan Jeffries, Nemanja Bjelica and Hassan Whiteside. The group responded and got Sacramento back into the game heading into the fourth.

Bjelica played tremendous team basketball. Whiteside went to work in the post and dropped in 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting and added seven rebounds. Joseph scored 12 points and Jeffries played very good defense in his first game of the season.

Walton probably should have stuck with the group and let them finish out the night.