Despite going down in defeat in their last outing, the Sacramento Kings learned plenty about themselves that they can take to the court Monday in a home game against the Orlando Magic.
The Kings will enter after a 127-106 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks when they led in the third quarter and held NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to a season-low 13 points with 10 rebounds.
Antetokounmpo might have been playing through a sore back, but the Kings were not about to minimize the effort. Yet, there are still areas in need of improvement.
"I was proud of the guys fighting and taking the lead in the third quarter, but we are not going to beat a team that good when they shoot 30 free throws to our 10, we turn the ball over 16 times, and we go 10 for 35 from (3-point range)," Kings coach Luke Walton told reporters afterward.
The Kings do need to take positives wherever they can get them. They are better of late with three victories in their last five games, but that run came after an eight-game losing streak.
The current modest run of success resembles a stretch of four victories in five games in early December that came after the team had lost five times in six games.
It has been a season full of ups and downs for Sacramento, which has been without Marvin Bagley III for the last eight games because of left foot soreness. Richaun Holmes (out two games with a shoulder injury) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (four, ankle) did not play Friday. And Harrison Barnes went to the locker room during the fourth quarter against the Bucks and is listed as day-to-day with a right leg injury.
"Every time you look at the bench you see somebody's going down, going to the locker room," the Kings' Buddy Hield said, according to the Sacramento Bee. "We've got to stay prayed up, man, for sure, but you go through trials and tribulations for a reason. Something good is about to happen and I believe that."
Bagley is expected back for Monday's game, returning 13.7 points and 6.9 rebounds to the lineup for the first time since Dec. 26.
The Magic will enter after starting their current six-game road trip with a 98-94 defeat Friday to the Phoenix Suns. It was the fourth time they scored under 100 points since Dec. 27 and they allowed eight unanswered points in the final minute.
"It's unfortunate that we had the lead with 58 seconds left and we couldn't hold on to it," center Nikola Vucevic said.
Orlando is dealing with its own share of injuries. Guard D.J. Augustin (knee) and forward Aaron Gordon (calf) missed Friday's game, while Michael Carter-Williams (shoulder) has been out since being injured on Dec. 20. Jonathan Isaac (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (knee) are out for the season.
Carter-Williams participated in part of Sunday's practice and he said he will not be cautious and favoring the left shoulder when he returns.
"I couldn't change if I wanted to," Carter-Williams said after the workout. "I can't not go hard through screens and I can't not play on defense hard. It's just the way that I'm built and the way that I play. I've had injuries before and I'm not going to switch up the way that I play."
The absences meant that two-way guard Josh Magette saw 17 minutes of action against the Suns, scoring three points.
"It was nice to be out there, contribute and try to do some things to help the team win," Magette said, according to the team's official website, after playing in his 26th career game. "They just made a few more plays down the stretch. I'm just happy to be able to show my value."
--Field Level Media