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Kings late-game struggles lead to 104-97 loss to Magic

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The Sacramento Kings failed to close the game as they fell to the Orlando Magic 104-97 on Sunday at Power Balance Pavilion.

The Kings were unable to capitalize on Magic big man Dwight Howard’s foul trouble. Howard started the game but was forced to leave the game at the 10:20 mark in the first quarter after two quick fouls on Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins.

Howard didn’t return until midway through the second but was quickly forced to leave the game once again as he was called for a bump foul on Cousins for his third foul of the night.

Howard only played 20 minutes all game and was held scoreless until he made a layup and made a free throw after the foul at 6:35 remaining in the game for his first points of the game. Howard also didn’t have his first rebound until there was 8:00 remaining in the game.

With Howard out, Cousins was able to make his mark on the court and give the Kings a 21-19 lead after the first quarter. Cousins finished 10 points, five rebounds and one block after the first quarter.

Cousins also found himself in foul trouble, getting called for his third foul with 1:42 remaining in the first half.

Kings fans also had a fright as they saw star point guard Tyreke Evans go to the floor in pain after coming down on his ankle. He was helped into the locker room with just under a minute remaining in the first half. Evans returned to start for the Kings in the second half and led the Kings in scoring with 28 points, eight assists and three assists.

Down 47-49, the Kings were still in the game even with guard Marcus Thornton not recording any points yet. Thornton didn’t make his first basket until the 10:35 mark in the third quarter. Thornton then hit the team’s first three of the night with 6:13 remaining in the third quarter, bringing the Magic’s lead to 65-61.

Thornton finished with 10 points in the third quarter, helping maintain just a two-point deficit as the Magic led 81-79 after three quarters of play.

Sacramento tied the game at 87-87 with 5:39 left in the game, but struggled defensively down the stretch, being outscored 17-10 the remainder of the game to lose 104-97.

“Late in the game we reverted to some bad basketball,” new Kings head coach Keith Smart said. “We stood on one side of the floor, and you can’t do that against good teams like this.”

Cousins also observed problems with how the Kings played late in the game and recognizes that they have some work to do but have already made progress during this young season.

“We have to get better at late-game situations, and keep our composure, and make some more moves,” Cousins said. “We are making a lot of strides. Just from the Knicks game to now, we are a whole different team. We just got to continue to work, and it’ll turn around.”

Kings rookie Jimmer Fredette finished with only two points, one rebound and one assist in 14 minutes of play.

Guard Jason Richardson led the Magic with 22 points, with Sacramento native Ryan Anderson contributing 19 points of his own. Anderson attended Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, Calif. before going to the University of California, Berkeley.

Like Evans, Thornton also went down with an injury early in the fourth quarter but later returned down the stretch.

“That’s the uniqueness of this team,” Smart said. “Guys are hurt, and they want to play. These guys have a heart and a desire to make this franchise better. I commend those guys for being hurt and wanting to come back in and play.”

The Kings now head on the road for eight of their next nine games, including five consecutive games starting on Tuesday against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Kings are 0-3 on the road this season.

“Getting our first win on the road, getting that monkey off our back — we just got to just come back with positive plan and just get it done,” forward Jason Thompson said. “Just take it one game at a time. It’s going to be a long road trip.” 


Photos by David Alvarez

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