Kings on roll heading into meeting with Magic
A week ago, the Orlando Magic had some decent reasons for good feelings coming off a stout defensive performance in a wire-to-wire three-point road win over the Boston Celtics.
Two disappointing follow-ups ensued and the Magic are left trying to find solutions for their various inconsistencies.
Orlando is hoping to find some answers Tuesday night when it hosts the Sacramento Kings, who enter on a three-game winning streak.
The Magic own a pair of three-point wins but three of their four losses have been by double digits. Despite having two days to practice following the win in Boston, the Magic were handed a 128-114 home loss to Portland Thursday and two nights later, they were dealt a 113-91 loss at Milwaukee.
In Saturday's loss, the Magic shot 32.7 percent (33 of 101) and in their three double-digit losses, they are shooting 33.9 percent (112 of 281) and overall they are shooting 41.2 percent, which is amongst the lowest percentages in the league.
"Tonight's the first time we haven't played as well offensively," Clifford said after the loss in Milwaukee. "We had open shots we missed, we had some questionable decisions trying to score over their size, but with the starters, in particular, the ball moved a lot better. We didn't shoot the ball well."
Nikola Vucevic led the Magic with 16 points but Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon were a combined 7-of-27 from the floor while Jonathan Issac was held to two points, two games after getting a double-double in Boston.
Vucevic leads the team by shooting 58.5 percent but after him, there is a steep drop-off in the percentages. Gordon is shooting 42.1 percent, Fournier is at 39.4 percent while Terrence Ross (37.3), D.J. Augustin (35.4) and Jonathon Simmons (26.1) are also off to slow starts.
"I think there just needs to be more of a focus level on making shots," Simmons told reporters after Monday's practice. "Sometimes when teams are making runs at us, our defense slacks off. Plus, if you can't make shots your defense is going to slack off. It just comes down to having that focus, but I think we got great shots (on Saturday in Milwaukee)."
Sacramento opened the season by losing three of four and allowing teams to shoot 51.4 percent but in wins over Memphis, Washington and Miami, the Kings allowed 41.9 percent shooting.
On Monday, the Kings opened a four-game trip with a 123-113 victory in Miami when they held the Heat to 41.3 percent shooting.
The Kings are off to their best seven-game start since 2014-15 and are over .500 for the first time since Oct. 29, 2016. It is also the second time in the last 12 years Sacramento owns a winning record through seven games.
They have not been two games over .500 since Nov. 28, 2014, and the quick start prompted longtime television play-by-play man Grant Napear to say: "Raise your hands, Kings fans, if you had this team starting the year at 4-3."
Willie-Cauley Stein led the Kings with 26 points and 13 rebounds Monday for his third straight double-double as Sacramento scored 68 points in the paint. Buddy Hield added 23 and is averaging 22.6 points during the streak.
De'Aaron Fox added 20 points and eight assists, giving him 59 points and 23 assists in the last three games.
"Man, we just some dogs on the team," Cauley-Stein said in his on-court interview with NBC Sports California. "The will to win is at an all-time high. Guys just want to win and guys are just here to work and we're just getting it done,"
Sacramento has won three straight from Orlando. A win on Tuesday would mark its longest winning streak in the all-time series.