The Orlando Magic finally got a break. After going 0-2 on the current west coast road trip without star center Nikola Vucevic and Friday without point guard Elfrid Payton, they looked to go to Sacramento to try and contain the Kings’ bruising center, DeMarcus Cousins.
Fate smiled on Orlando when Cousins was suspended for the game after an altercation with embattled head coach George Karl. The Magic took full advantage of the gift and earned a 107-100 victory on Friday night in Sacramento.
The Kings were not able to fully replace the 27 points and 12 rebounds per game that Cousins produces. Sacramento is not a team with much depth, anyway.
Orlando wasted little time exploiting his absence, racing to a 17-4 lead with five minutes elapsed. The Kings closed the margin to 27-21 after the first quarter.
Sacramento came out aggressively in the second period and tied the game at 44 with 3:16 left in the half. The Magic never gave up the lead and took a 50-49 advantage at halftime.
The Kings took their first lead of the game at 64-61 on a Rajon Rondo three-pointer midway through the third period, but the Magic responded. A 17-6 run gave them an eight-point lead, and they carried an 80-75 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Orlando rode a surge by Victor Oladipo, along with some strong rebounding, to run up a 95-81 lead with 6:52 remaining. A jumper and two dunks fueled the run.
They maintained a double-digit lead until the final minute of the fourth quarter but were fully in control. When the horn sounded, the Magic had broken a three-game losing streak.
Though it was important just to get a win, at least, some of the Magic players still believe the playoffs are possible.
“We want it, everybody in this locker room wants it,” said forward Aaron Gordon. “A couple of games here and there and we can be right back in it.”
Orlando is currently in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three spots out of playoff position.
Six Magic players scored in double figures led by Gordon with 20 and Oladipo with 18. Jason Smith and Evan Fournier had 16 each.
Magic Coach Scott Skiles was generally pleased with the effort.
“For most of the game we were pretty much consumed with what we were trying to do,” he said after the game. “It got a little iffy at the end again, but other than that it was a pretty well-played game by us.”
Kosta Koufos paced Sacramento with 19 points and Marco Belinelli with 17. Rondo added 16. The Kings shot only 40 percent and were badly outrebounded by Orlando, 51-37.
The Magic improved to 28-36 and will finish the road trip Saturday night in Portland.