A win in Sunday's seeding game would move the Orlando Magic one step closer to clinching a berth in the unprecedented NBA playoffs. The Sacramento Kings, meanwhile, are out to keep their tenuous postseason hopes alive.
Orlando (31-35) tipped off the two-week seeding restart by resuming a win streak that began before the COVID-19 pandemic placed the NBA season on hiatus. The Magic raced ahead of the Brooklyn Nets by 29 points through three quarters on Friday, then held off a fourth-quarter surge for a 128-118 decision.
The win marked four straight for Orlando, which moved the Magic a half-game ahead of Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference's No. 7 seed.
"We got off to a bad start on defense, yet I thought we responded well to that," Magic coach Steve Clifford said in his postgame teleconference, via FOX Sports Florida. "In the second and third quarters, we were balanced. We played inside-out [with] good energy [and] shot-making on offense."
The Magic came into the Orlando-area restart with the lowest point-per-game average among the 22 teams. The 111 points it scored through three quarters on Friday outpaced Orlando's season-long average, which sits just below 107 per game.
Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic led the balanced scoring effort with 24 and 22 points, while Aaron Gordon posted a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Orlando is in a favorable position to clinch a playoff berth without needing a play-in game, leading the Washington Wizards by 6 1/2 games, more than the four required. The Magic can now focus on securing the No. 7 spot.
For Sacramento (28-37), its start in the bubble complicated an already difficult path into the postseason.
The Kings tipped off on Friday one of four teams within the four-game mark of No. 8 seed Memphis in the Western Conference standings. They remain 3.5 games back, in the margin needed to force a play-in game, but lost ground to the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs beat the Kings head-to-head Friday, 129-120, despite 39 points from De'Aaron Fox.
"He makes the game a lot easier for us, shooters especially, but we've got to be able to help him," Bogdan Bogdanvoic said in his postgame teleconference via NBC Sports Bay Area. "That was a good game. I'm sure he's not happy about it."
Fox shot 17-of-33 from the floor en route to his career high 39, but it was not all good from the Sacramento guard. He went 1-of-7 from behind the 3-point line, reflective of a larger overall problem for the Kings in the loss.
They went just 12-of-38 from long range as a team. Bogdan was responsible for half of the team's made 3-pointers en route to 24 points.
Sacramento is without Marvin Bagley III in the bubble. Bagley was officially scratched for the season due to a foot injury sustained before the hiatus.
Orlando has played without Al-Farouq Aminu due to a knee injury, while Wesley Iwundu is day-to-day amid concussion protocol.
--Field Level Media