Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 123, Sacramento Kings 112

Nikola Vucevic poured in another masterful performance as he tortured the Sacramento Kings all night for an Orlando Magic win. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
Nikola Vucevic poured in another masterful performance as he tortured the Sacramento Kings all night for an Orlando Magic win. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports /

84. Final. 123. 38. 112

Nikola Vucevic has made a lot of defenses look silly through the course of this season. Anyone who dares to give him single coverage has been subject to his array of post moves and teams that forget about him in transition are going to get hit with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

But even this was a bit absurd.

The Orlando Magic staked a lead thanks to a stifling defense and breakneck attack from the returning Michael Carter-Williams in the third quarter. But they still had to close it out.

And that was all Nikola Vucevic’s domain. He dominated the end of the game, lifting the Magic to the win.

He hit a 3-pointer late to make it a 13-point lead. Late in the fourth quarter, he backed down Harrison Barnes to the elbow and turned to hit a fadeaway jumper for another big bucket.

Then he just started toying with the defense. As the Sacramento Kings sent three players to try to crowd him and get the ball out of his hands, he fired the ball to Khem Birch under the basket for a two-handed jam.

Nikola Vucevic had another All-Star worthy performance as the Orlando Magic rallied together to get a road win over the Sacramento Kings.

Orlando put the exclamation point on a spirited effort — one where they again lost a player to injury with James Ennis leaving the game in the third quarter with a strained groin — with back-to-back dunks from Michael Carter-Williams and Nikola Vucevic.

The Magic led by as much as 20 in a 123-112 victory over the Kings at Golden 1 Center on Friday. In a second straight night, the Magic played with intensity and effort, executing for most of the night to stake a lead and secure a needed road victory.

A+. . C. Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC

What is there left to say about Nikola Vucevic? His stat line does a lot of talking for him. He scored 42 points, made 17 of 22 shots and hit a career-high-tying six 3-pointers (on eight attempts). He grabbed nine rebounds and dished out four assists to boot. The Sacramento Kings had no answer for him at any point of the night.

They attempted to defend him in the post in single coverage with Richaun Holmes, but Nikola Vucevic ate that up for 23 points in the first half. When the Kings brought the double in the second half, Vucevic either beat it with sharp passes to guards who could drive it or re-initiate the play. Or he just beat the double himself.

Vucevic took some heat for poor shooting performances in both Tuesday and Thursday’s losses. Those games fell on his poor shooting even though he still put in an incredible effort. Timely shooting is still an important thing. Especially if he wants to build that All-Star resume. He had that all working tonight, making sure this game was never in doubt.


Boy, does it feel good to have a natural ball-handler and point guard on the floor. And, boy, is it good to have Michael Carter-Williams back. The Orlando Magic played without a true lead guard in Thursday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. And while the team performed admirably, it was clear how much they missed it down the stretch when the team struggled to stem the tide and get organized.

Carter-Williams fixed so many of those issues seemingly instantly. He got the team into their sets and looked to push the pace off the dribble, knowing the exact times to attack and when to hang back (mostly). He had complete control of the game.

Carter-Williams did his part for sure, scoring 15 of his 21 points in the third quarter, helping the Magic stake a 20-point lead at one point. He was constantly on the attack and looking to get to the basket. It got reckless at times. But for his first game since early January, this was a refreshing bit of aggression for the team.

B+. . G/F. Orlando Magic. TERRENCE ROSS

If there is one good thing that appears to have come out of this road trip it is that Terrence Ross has started to find his shooting stroke again. Terrence Ross hit four of his 10 3-pointers in the game. He caught fire in the second quarter to help the Orlando magic stay in the lead and in the game when Nikola Vucevic and Michael Carter-Williams took their rests on the bench in the second quarter.

Ross finished with 18 points, adding five rebounds and four assists. He was certainly making things happen. But his 7-for-20 shooting also showed how much he was hunting shots in the second half. He took a series of hurried shots in the third quarter that helped the Sacramento Kings cut the lead in half and make the team sweat just a little bit.

A. . F/C. Orlando Magic. KHEM BIRCH

Khem Birch’s stat line does not pop out — eight points, five rebounds, 4-for-6 shooting. But the dude was everywhere, making things happen throughout the game. His defense was on point as usual. But it was more than that. He picked Tyrese Haliburton’s pocket on the perimeter. He was always in the right spots and making plays happen.

Khem Birch has become a favorite scapegoat among fans hungry to see Mohamed Bamba play (he scored five points on 2-for-6 shooting in 13:51). But it should be said that Birch is not playing poorly at all. He is playing the best basketball of his career. And unlike Bamba, Birch was ready to muscle the Kings’ bigs around. His physicality stands out right now over Bamba. And he is playing exceptionally well.

SACRAMENTO KINGS. C. . 12-13. 10th West

The Sacramento Kings were also a bit short-handed with late scratches of De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley. The team was missing a big chunk of their offense. But they were still plenty capable of scoring (which they did) and playing better (which they did not). The Kings were generally sloppy throughout the game with 18 turnovers in the game. That is how Sacramento got virtually blown out while shooting better than 50-percent.

The team’s defense was also a complete mess. The Kings seemingly had no plan to handle Nikola Vucevic. And their doubles in the second half were fairly ineffective. Michael Carter-Williams got where he wanted on the floor. It was just not a good game. And the Kings were not able to make up ground from deep or in transition with a more effective gameplan and execution from the Magic.

Next. Orlando Magic continue to fight through injury. dark

The Magic are now 10-17 and 12th in the Eastern Conference. The Orlando Magic complete their road trip on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns.