Orlando Magic Grades: Sacramento Kings 121, Orlando Magic 107

Khem Birch was one of the few Orlando Magic players willing to get dirty and physical in a frustrating loss. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Khem Birch was one of the few Orlando Magic players willing to get dirty and physical in a frustrating loss. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

84. 107. 38. Final. 121

Khem Birch was willing to work. He was willing to get on the glass and make things happen, collecting offensive rebound after offensive rebound. For a stretch in the first half, that was all the Orlando Magic had going for them.

That was some clue the team came to play? That was what teams have to do to stay alive when they are trying to get back into the game, right? This was surely a positive sign for a second-half comeback, something the Magic have become good at?

Not quite. Those offensive rebounds got squandered fairly quickly.

An imprecise offense was only exceeded by an even more imprecise defense. And for a team with this small of a margin for error, that kind of lax play can have big dividends.

The Orlando Magic never found their footing on either end and struggled to keep up with a rested and physically dominant Sacramento Kings team.

The Sacramento Kings made the Orlando Magic pay over and over again, never letting the Magic get a firm grip. Khem Birch was seemingly battling alone, the only one putting in the effort.

The Kings took advantage, turning turnovers and imprecise offense into transition. Running straight at the rim for easy baskets or kicking out to the 3-point line. The Magic never were able to reel the Kings back in during a 121-107 loss at the Amway Center on Thursday.

Sacramento took control throughout the game with a surprisingly physical defense, undoubtedly a product of five days off with time to practice. The Kings came to Orlando with a ton of energy and played with it from the start.

The Magic were able to match but quickly found themselves down by 11. Even with both Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic able to get their scoring going, it was still a challenge to pick up their pace and get into their offense.

Orlando committed 14 turnovers, again struggling to move the ball. The team was seemingly in the wrong spots for much of the game and never quite on the same page.

But Sacramento scored 23 points off those turnovers, making Orlando pay for each mistake. Each miscue seemed costly.

The Kings certainly were on the same page. They moved the ball for 30 assists on 45 field goals and hit 14 3-pointers, including seven from Buddy Hield.

Every time the Magic seemed to make a push, it got snuffed out quickly. Orlando never got the deficit within 10 points in the second half. The Magic sort of drifted off to the finish.

A. . C. Orlando Magic. KHEM BIRCH

Credit has to go where it is due. The Orlando Magic had a low-energy, low-effort game where they were imprecise and poor in almost any area. So the one guy who did his job throughout the night deserves kudos and a tip of the hat.

Khem Birch scored eight points and grabbed 14 rebounds, including 10 offensive rebounds. He was everywhere on the glass and chasing shots out of his area. He needed to be a bit better defensively and teammates continually put him on an island, giving him no outlet or trying to squeeze the ball to him in tough spots. But the effort was there. And it stood out.

. F. Orlando Magic. AARON GORDON. F

If Khem Birch stood out for his effort, then Aaron Gordon stood out for his lack of effort. Or at least, his lack of precision and efficiency. Aaron Gordon could not seem to do anything right and the frustration was clearly written on his face. It sapped his attention to detail and energy on defense. Put quite simply: The Magic cannot win if Gordon plays as relaxed and inattentive as he played Wednesday.

Gordon finished the game with three points on 1-for-9 shooting. He was forcing his offense in a lot of places and struggled to break down either Marvin Bagley or Harrison Barnes. He had five assists and the Magic’s best moments had him on the ball passing it well. But he also had four turnovers too. This was one of the worst of Gordon’s games since he took on the point guard duties. But his defense was atrocious throughout the game as he gave up line drives to the basket and generally looked uninterested.

B-. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

Nikola Vucevic got his numbers. And he was key to making sure the lead never got embarrassingly big. No one should bat an eye at 26 points, 11-for-18 shooting and nine rebounds. He largely did his job offensively. But it was not quite that simple. Vucevic is carrying some heavy responsibilities on both ends of the floor and he still somehow fell short.

The biggest criticism for Vucevic throughout his near-decade with the Magic has been his lack of physicality. And it showed in this game. While he was able to outmaneuver Marvin Bagley for much of the night, Richaun Holmes really pushed him around on both ends. And Vucevic was generally poor on his pick and roll coverages, allowing the Kings to step into mid-range shots. Vucevic had a lot to clean up in front of him, but the Magic need him to set a better tone.

Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER. B. . G/F

Evan Fournier continues to put up solid numbers and tear through teams on offense. He had 25 points on 7-for-15 shooting and made all eight of his free throws. Fournier was able to give the magic some breathing room offensively, especially when the team was able to find pockets where its offense moved.

But he was put in a lot of positions to create. And the Magic’s offense generally stalled. That was not just on Fournier of course. Everyone seemed unable to get the team moving and organized. Everything offensively was just a bit off-kilter. Fournier should not be the one to force action. But that is the role the Magic are increasingly putting him in.

A+. . 7-10. 13th East. SACRAMENTO KINGS

The Sacramento Kings entered the game as the worst defense in the league by far. They found some footing in slowing down the similarly offensively challenge New York Knicks in their last game Friday. They seemed to use their five days of unfettered practice well. The Kings came in with energy and precision. They were organized and sure about what they were trying to do. The Orlando Magic were not a team to make them pay for their missteps.

But Sacramento was legitimately the better team, dictating the terms at every turn. Except for the Magic’s 17 offensive rebounds — which the Kings matched with 17 of their own and took the lead with a particularly killer stretch of offensive putbacks late in the second quarter — Sacramento won every major statistical category. They moved the ball and were physically dominant. That is how you use an off day.

Next. Orlando Magic should be hunting to buy at the trade deadline. dark

The Magic are now 8-11 and ninth in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic complete their four-game homestand on Friday against the LA Clippers.