Grasping on to anything positive is a must to survive this kind of a season. The Magic have the second worst record in the league and are already facing the realization that things will get worse as the team continues its rebuilding after this summer's trade. Youth has its ups and downs.
When the Magic play a game like they did Tuesday night against the 76ers -- together, patient and with energy -- the team looks like they did at the beginning of the season. They look capable of beating anybody and competing for a Playoff spot.
That time and that Tuesday night seem so long ago. Not after Sacramento carved its way through Orlando's defense with ease and Orlando put up very little resistance at home to a team struggling like Orlando was and on a six-game losing streak.
The Kings fell behind by six points and succumbed to fouls, but that is probably the only negative Keith Smart will be able to point to. After that, Sacramento went on a torrid offensive pace, easily getting into the paint with dribble penetration and kicking out to shooters. Sacramento was throwing rocks in the ocean and hitting everything. Orlando could not.
The Kings played with a lot of energy, more energy than the Magic, and easily romped to a 125-101 win at Amway Center on Wednesday.
The key really was the shooting and ability to get into the paint. That was what Sacramento excelled at with Tyreke Evans taking over most of the ball handling duties after Isaiah Thomas got into early foul trouble.
Sacramento shot 54.8 percent from the floor and 10 for 22 from beyond the arc. Evans scored 17 points on 11 field goal attempts and had seven assists. Marcus Thornton had 20 points off the bench and John Salmons scored 21 points on 7-for-9 shooting.
The Kings posted 56 points in the paint and had their defense kickstart their offense. The Magic committed 18 turnovers and it seemed as if each one led to a runout for the Kings. Sacramento scored 20 points off those 18 turnovers and were constantly leaking out after turnovers or missed shots for easy layups on the other end of the floor.
The Magic did not have the energy to get back or the offensive patience to wear down the Kings' defense. Orlando was not hitting shots, there were a few missed open jumpers for sure. The team shot 44.6 percent from the floor.
The turnovers and the transition baskets were too much for Orlando to keep up. The Magic might have scored 57 points in the second half, but by then it was too late. Sacramento built as much as a 33-point lead and made the final quarter of the game a mere formality.
The positives were limited to individual play.
Tobias Harris continues to show he knows how to score the ball, making 23 points on 9-for-12 shooting. Beno Udrih had 14 points and eight assists. Arron Afflalo added 15 points.
Orlando just could not get the efficiency needed on offense with Nikola Vucevic struggling. And, more importantly, the team could not get much going defensively.
Again, the Kings seemed to cach the Magic either flat footed in transition, behind them on cuts to the basket or slow on rotations back out to the 3-point line. Sacramento was energized and had confidence going the entire night. That is something Orlando could not afford to give Sacramento.
It was another lesson for this young Magic team to learn about keeping focus and fighting through fatigue during the crazy NBA schedule.
Looking for something positive to say every night and build from though becomes more difficult to do. Building consistency is something the Magic should want to see.
The Magic are going to be fine down the road IMO. Much was made about the haul that Hennigan got for Howard, but given all the assets Hennigan received out of the deal (it's also a big deal that the picks were spaced out over a number of years) it's a pretty impressive thing the Magic are doing.
Rebuilding is hard, but smart and committed franchises do it well. They don't panic after a bad season, they continue on with the plan. With all the assets Hennigan has coming to him in the draft, the massive trade exception still in play, and a lot of cap space in 2014 when you really want to have cap space, it would seem Orlando is in an exceptional position to rebuild as long as the DeVoss family is committed to it.
The only way rebuilding does not work is if you do it on the cheap, and that's what the Kings have done. This is also why many Kings fans are clamoring for new ownership (which they are getting no matter what), new management (they are also getting this) and a new coaching staff (I don't think Smart's as big an issue as some but he's gone because he won't be new management or ownership's guy so you factor in a cheap one year deal it's a minor investment to make with the long term in mind) there is a lot of belief this franchise can improve. Then, on top of all that, trades with ownership where money is not the end all be all of the whole trade to begin with, and having management that can make most of the few reasonable assets the Kings do have right now could go a long way.
As it is, though, I like Orlando's position better, just as I like Washington's position, and just like I like Detroit's position better.
There is a common theme here: Bad franchises stay bad, and it's usually because of the ownership. I doubt the DeVoss' will screw this thing up badly, and I'll bet Hennigan is given until the summer of 2014 before he really feels a big time pressure to put the best possible product they can on the court. The Magic have so many assets, so many opportunities it's a shame to waste them when you have the ability to build a top flight team for an entire decade.