Orlando Spoils Big Nights from Bjelica and Fox
The Sacramento Kings are currently fighting through the wrong kind of consistency. For the third straight game, they found themselves trying to battle back from a double-digit deficit in the first half. Although they nearly pulled it out in the end, the Orlando Magic used a clutch Aaron Gordon shot, and a large advantage at the free-throw line, to defeat Sacramento 114-112 on Monday night.
“There’s a level we have to play at and we didn’t do it long enough.,” said Kings head coach Luke Walton, “The second half…the passion…the intensity we played with, that’s winning Sacramento Kings basketball”.
Thanks to a 33-21 third quarter, the Kings found themselves within a point going to the fourth. With just over a minute remaining in the game, Sacramento managed to put together an 8-0 run to take a one point lead with 15 seconds to go.
Nemanja Bjelica was hot from the opening tip, finishing with a career high in points (34) and three-pointers made (8). He, along with De’Aaron Fox’s second straight near triple-double, almost led the team to a comeback victory.
“To be honest with you I had a career high but when you lose like this it’s not a good feeling,” said Bjelica.
Orlando got to the free-throw line a staggering 30 times compared to Sacramento’s 11. It’s the second straight game where the Kings have appeared to be on the extreme wrong end of the officials whistle.
“The free throws are getting ridiculous. It’s 60-21 I think over our last two home games,” said Walton, “We send clips in and we as a group focus on what we control. We will probably get a new two minute report tomorrow saying something else but it doesn’t change anything”.
Luke Walton added that it’s not just Bjelica’s shooting that impresses him, it’s his passing ability, unselfishness, and his ability to attack the basket. Fox said he would like Bjelica to shoot more open looks when he has them, although he appreciates his desire to find the open teammate for a better shot.
Fox, who received nominations for last week’s NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors, scored 31 points alongside 10 assists and eight rebounds in 37 minutes against Orlando.
“…I get in there, trying to rebound with those guys – I’m just trying to do what I can to help us win.”
Marvin Bagley made his return from his second injury stretch of the season, and was impressive on both ends of the floor. He scored 18 points in 23 minutes.
“We kept him right around what the training staff (was thinking). I loved his overall passion and energy that he played with (and) his communication…We talk all the time about him being such a dynamic roller and what that can do for our offense…I was impressed with his basketball game but also his mental game…” Walton said when asked about Bagley after the game.
“His rotations were great tonight. I think he had one of his best games if the year. I think Marv did a hell of a job tonight,” added Fox.
“To be honest y’all really haven’t seen anything yet. I mean that in the most humble way possible but there is a lot more to my game…whatever the team needs to win games I’m going to do,” said Bagley, who admitted he has never faced injury issues like this before in his basketball career.
The Kings, now 15-25 on the season, face Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night inside the Golden 1 Center.