SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With only 18 games left in the regular season, Orlando forward Aaron Gordon sees no reason why the Magic can’t be part of the playoff discussion.
Even though there are three teams standing between his team and the eighth playoff spot in the East, Gordon is convinced the post-season is still within reach.
"We want it, everybody in this locker room wants it," Gordon said following the Magic’s 107-100 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. "A couple of games here and there and we can be right back in it. We just have to keep focused. We need to make sure we’re doing the right things to make that push."
Gordon had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Victor Oladipo scored six of his 18 points during a 40-second stretch of the fourth quarter to help lead Orlando to just its third win in nine games.
Evan Fournier and Jason Smith scored 16 points apiece and C.J. Watson added 10 points and five assists to help the slumping Magic end their three-game losing streak.
Orlando wasted a 14-point lead in the first half and was up 89-81 with 8 minutes left to play when Oladipo took over. He made a deep jumper from just inside the 3-point line and followed it up with back-to-back dunks.
Gordon added four points down the stretch and Smith had six of his points late to help the Magic hold off the Kings.
"For most of the game we were pretty much consumed with what we were trying to do," Orlando coach Scott Skiles said. "It got a little iffy at the end again . but other than that it was a pretty well-played game by us."
Kosta Koufos had 19 points to lead Sacramento.
Both teams without respective leading scorers and rebounders.
Sacramento suspended centre DeMarcus Cousins one game for conduct detrimental to the team following his outburst against coach George Karl late during Wednesday's 120-111 home loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Orlando was also short-handed. Nikola Vucevic missed his third straight game with a groin strain while point guard Elfrid Payton, who sat out with a sprained right elbow.
It didn't seem to bother the Magic much.
Orlando, which lost to Sacramento 97-91 on Nov. 21, trailed briefly in the third quarter but was otherwise dominant in this matchup of teams struggling to hold onto dwindling playoff hopes.
Not even Karl's return was enough to snap the Kings out of their slump. Karl returned to the team after missing practice Thursday while being treated for skin cancer on the left side of his neck.
"I was hoping to have that start from our guys knowing we would have to play with tremendous energy to win the game," Karl said. "They are a young and athletic team and I thought they play aggressive early. We on the other hand needed that 3-ball going but we couldn't get it going."
Orlando jumped out to a 16-2 lead less than six minutes into the first quarter and took advantage of a sloppy and listless Sacramento team that has been dealing with off-court drama for much of the season.
The Kings made a brief run to chip away at the lead in the second quarter and tied it briefly on Marco Belinelli's three-point play with 4:11 left before the Magic took a 50-49 lead halftime.
Magic: Dedmon started in place of Vucevic, replacing Jason Smith who had started the previous two games. ... C.J. Watson started at point guard in place of Payton.
Kings: Sacramento, which opened the game 3 of 11 and had six turnovers in the first 9 minutes, fell to 2-8 without Cousins. ... G Ben McLemore remained out with a broken right ring finger. ... Belinelli scored 17 points in 28 minutes after sitting out Wednesday's loss to Cleveland with back spasms.
Gordon spent a lengthy stretch on the bench in the second half after his right shoe tore. Gordon had to wait several minutes before a pair of replacement blue shoes were brought out to him. "The shoe just ripped," Gordon said. "I couldn't get it back to me in time so I had to sit on the bench."
Karl talked about Cousins' suspension before the game and said he hopes that both men can move on from the situation. "Hopefully we can communicate and he gets to a good place," Karl said. "(General manager Vlade Divac) handled that yesterday and Vlade is the lead man in what how he wants this to be discussed. For me, it's behind closed doors and shouldn't be discussed."
Magic: At Portland on Saturday.
Kings: Host Utah on Sunday.