It had been a torturous eight-game stretch for the Kings.
They’d lost eight in a row, including to the Brooklyn Nets, the team with the worst record in the NBA who snapped a 16-game skid at Sacramento’s expense.
They’d been blown out and blown big leads, too, including leads of 28 at San Antonio and 15 against Washington last week, all while chatter around the team became louder about how each loss helped the Kings get closer to keeping its top-10-protected draft pick.
The players and coaches, however, haven’t concerned themselves with the offseason and it finally paid off Monday night with a 120-115 victory over the Orlando Magic at Golden 1 Center.
The Kings’ skid was their longest of the season. The win puts Sacramento at 2-8 since trading All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.
“Guys played really hard,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “When you look back at the L2M (last two minute) reports that we’re getting, you see some of the things that could have happened if a couple calls are made here and there against Utah or Washington or some of those things. They hadn’t gotten the W, but tonight we got the win, nine guys played, all of them played really well.”
The game had the makings of one that was designed for the Kings to struggle.
Three of their regulars – Arron Afflalo, Kosta Koufos and Ty Lawson – were given the night off for planned rest.
That meant rookie Skal Labissiere would start and the first meaningful minutes of the season for rookie center Georgios Papagiannis.
It also meant more playing time for Langston Galloway, who was acquired in the Cousins trade but had seldom played as the third point guard behind Darren Collison and Lawson.
The Kings, however, managed to win with balanced offense and finding just enough defense to hold off the Magic.
Seven Kings scored in double figures, led by Collison and Anthony Tolliver with 19 points apiece.
“That’s a good team win,” Joerger said. “We’ve been playing really hard and I’m very happy for our guys.”
It won’t be uncommon for veterans to sit out games the rest of the season for the Kings (26-41) as Joerger sees what lineups and combinations work best going forward.
“It doesn’t matter,” center Willie Cauley-Stein said. “Throw five people out there and we’re going to play hard, we’re going to play together.”
In addition to seven players scoring in double figures, seven different Kings had an assist, led by Collison’s season-high 13.
Orlando (24-44) was down just one in the final minute before Tolliver’s 3-pointer gave the Kings a 116-112 lead with 43.3 seconds to play.
Center Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 23 points. Evan Fournier had 21 points and Elfrid Payton had his third triple-double in five games with 13 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.