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NBA Recap: Sacramento’s Buddy Hield Drops 29 in Road Win, Orlando’s Khem Birch Achieves New Career High

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) — On the back of a positive second game against Charlotte, Orlando Magic hosted the Sacramento Kings at the Amway Center. Both teams are in pursuit of a .500 record with Orlando improving to 8-10 after a six-game skid earlier in the month. The first quarter got off to a positive start for the away team as Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes got hot with a combination of mid-range jumpers and threes.

After their first timeout, the defensive frailties started to shore up for Orlando as they cut the deficit to just six points before Luke Walton called one of his own. While Orlando found moments of inspiration, the lack of press on defense left them susceptible to open shots as Buddy Hield finished the first quarter with 10 points.

The tug and pull at the deficit continued through the second as Fournier and Vucevic were able to find opportunities in transition. But for every quick basket Orlando made, Sacramento were just as quick about getting the ball up field and piling up points in bunches through the paint. The Kings were quicker to mobilize on offense as they finished with five more assists than Orlando and widening the margin between them to 65-50 at halftime.

Both Sacramento guards De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton enjoyed a share of assists and fruitful possession of the ball. For the home team, Orlando suffered from hasty decision making offensively that stifled creativity and made finding open shots difficult from range. The struggles would continue for Orlando into the second half as Aaron Gordon finally got himself on the point sheet after sinking an excellent three point attempt. Up until that point, he had more personal fouls than points that entire stretch on seven field goal attempts.

The ticky tack fouls started to stack up as Dwayne Bacon, Cole Anthony and Aaron Gordon were all subject to small calls in transition of play that slowed down any kind of consistency Orlando were attempting to develop. With just 7:27 left in the third quarter, the Sacramento Kings starters were all in double digits in terms of points as the team effort was demonstrated across the board for the Western Conference side. The wheels started to fall off for the home team shortly after as Hield, Bagley III and De’Aaron Fox were finding the basket seemingly at will.

While Orlando did well to create better opportunities in the second half, the shots weren’t falling nearly as easy as they did against Charlotte last outing. Vucevic and Fournier had a few uncharacteristic misses during the third quarter that culminated in them relying on their bench players to find opportunities. Khem Birch found a way to have a positive outing despite the lack of cohesion from the team as he surpassed his career high in rebounds with 14, and ten of them coming on the offensive side of the ball.

Despite Vucevic and Fournier both finishing with 25+ this game, Buddy Hield took reins as the star of the show in this encounter. With 29 points and seven three-pointers made, he stayed hot throughout the game shooting an astounding 58.8% from the field. Orlando Head Coach Steve Clifford was adamant about the errors that lead to such a lopsided result at home:

“Our biggest problem was transition defense — again. We’ve gotta become more committed in that area. Our two biggest weaknesses this season have been energy and effort. They used to be our strengths but we haven’t been able to get back to making that our strong points.”

Clifford is well aware of the issues that are plaguing this team. While effort and awareness have been lacking in gametime moments for Orlando as of late, it’s clear that the coaching staff aren’t shying away from the defensive issues that are keeping them from being great. While tonight’s offensive showing was an anomaly, the defensive issues are a worrying trend that need to be rectified soon before other Eastern Conference contenders start to develop confidence.

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Nicolas Vera is a Florida National News contributor. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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