For all the struggles the Orlando Magic and Sacramento Kings have experienced, their most recent performances proved that teams should think twice about taking either of them lightly.
Sacramento looks to avoid a 10th straight road loss Wednesday night by earning its first season sweep of Orlando in nine years.
The Kings (19-39) entered Tuesday having dropped the first two on their five-game road trip and 13 of their last 16 contests overall, but they pushed defending champion Miami to the brink before fading in a 141-129 double-overtime loss.
It marked the sixth straight defeat for Sacramento, though there were plenty of positive signs in this one. Marcus Thornton scored 36 points off the bench, Tyreke Evans finished with 26 and DeMarcus Cousins added 24 and 15 rebounds.
"It's tough but this is a loss I consider a good loss,' said Cousins, who's averaged 22.0 points and 12.6 rebounds in his last three games. "Our effort was incredible. We come out and play like that every night, we can beat a lot of teams.'
"To be able to take that team to two overtimes just shows the testament of us growing," Thornton said, "A team like that - championship team - they play great together. Obviously I hate losing but it was a great effort by us.'
Though the Kings have averaged 105.8 points during their losing streak, they've allowed an average of 118.7 per game. They rank last in the league by yielding 104.9 points per game.
"We had every opportunity to win that game but it didn't fall our way this time," coach Keith Smart said. "We had a game where (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) had to get 40 and 39 points to put us away and I thought our guys stayed right there on the number."
Orlando has been dealing with its own struggles, having lost 28 of its previous 31 before scoring its most points in more than two weeks in a 98-84 win at Philadelphia on Tuesday.
The Magic (16-41) ended a five-game losing streak, during which they were outscored by an average of 18.0 points, as Arron Afflalo and Tobias Harris scored 16 points apiece.
"I like that we were poised,' coach Jacque Vaughn said. "We didn't crumble.'
Rookie Maurice Harkless scored 10 points and is averaging 15.4 over his last five games. He averaged 4.8 points in his previous 46 contests.
"It feels great," Harkless said. "Guys feel good about themselves and it shows what hard work can do. There are a lot of smiles around here for a change.
"We worked so hard for this and we hoped it would come. It's just a great win and I'm happy for our whole team.'
Though the Kings haven't won on the road since beating Washington 96-94 on Jan. 28, Orlando has lost 14 of its last 16 at home.
Sacramento will be going for its first season sweep of the Magic since 2003-04 after Cousins scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in a 91-82 win Dec. 7.
Orlando shot only 37.5 percent in that contest while scoring the second-fewest points of any Sacramento opponent this season.
The Magic, averaging 87.3 points during a three-game home losing streak, had won seven of the previous eight meetings with the Kings.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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