The Orlando Magic arrived in Sacramento for its fourth game in five nights. And the Kings made the Magic feel comfortable from the start.
It was much too easy for the Magic most of the night, as it got what it wanted offensively and the Kings were spectators in a 105-96 loss.
The Kings were supposed to be using this stretch of games at home to build momentum before their next extended road trip at the end of the month.
Instead, the Kings lost for the third time in four games on their five-game homestand. All of the games have been played without DeMarcus Cousins, who missed his fifth consecutive game recovering from a viral infection.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
But don’t try telling Kings coach Michael Malone that not having Cousins was the reason Orlando shot 50.6 percent.
Malone is all about defense, and he didn’t see nearly enough Saturday.
“I don’t care what anybody says,” Malone said. “Analytics, whatever you want to call it. I think it’s all B.S. Defense wins in the NBA and (Saturday) we didn’t defend anybody.”
The Kings have shown a penchant for falling behind big and they did again Saturday. The biggest deficit was 82-66 with 10:42 to play.
The Kings managed to rally behind the likes of Darren Collison and reserves Ramon Sessions and Derrick Williams.
Williams’ dunk tied the score at 90 with 3:59 to play, but Orlando countered with a 9-0 run to put the game away.
Malone tried several different lineups, tying to jolt the Kings out of their malaise before seeing some positive signs in the fourth quarter.
“I was in search mode,” Malone said. “I was trying to find a group that could give us some life. We played very flat, very unspired basketball, and I was just looking for a lineup, a group that could give us some life and a spark.”
Collison led the Kings (10-10) with 22 points. Rudy Gay had 16 points, five rebounds and six assists. Jason Thompson had a season-high 18 points to go with nine rebounds.
Williams had 14 points off the bench for the Kings.
Tobias Harris scored a game-high 27 points for Orlando (9-14). Victor Oladipo had 16 points and seven assists. Evan Fournier added 15.
Kyle O’Quinn started for injured Orlando center Nikola Vucevic (lower back strain) and had 13 points.
The Kings’ bench has been a sore spot at times during the season, and struggled to make up for the lack of energy from the starters in the first quarter.
It began in the second quarter when the reserves combined to miss 14 of their 15 shots and a tie game became an 11-point advantage for Orlando.
Williams helped the second unit rebound in the fourth quarter, along with Sessions, who finished with 10 points and seven assists.
Malone said the problems for the Kings began immediately.
“From the jump ball,” Malone said. “From the jump ball when we just didn’t defend anybody.”
Malone is not optimistic he’ll have Cousins back for Monday’s game against Utah.
Cousins hasn’t been able to do much while recovering from his illness and Malone is wary of throwing him into a game before he’s ready.
Cousins is the Kings’ leading scorer and leads the NBA with 12.6 rebounds per game.
If Cousins cannot play, Ryan Hollins will continue to start.
Malone said the problems with the Kings aren’t going to be solved simply by adding Cousins back into the lineup. They’ve fallen behind big with Cousins this season.
The Kings need to stop hurting themselves, he said.
“We just had too many breakdowns after breakdown (Saturday),” Malone said.
And the Magic gladly exploited them.