But the team now knows what new acquisition Glen Davis can do.
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"He was absolutely huge tonight," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said.
Davis scored 20 points, gathered eight rebounds and drew key fouls against Kings center DeMarcus Cousins that put Cousins on the bench for much of the second half.
The Magic needed everything Davis and the rest of the supporting cast provided. The personal fouls limited Howard to less than eight minutes of playing time over the first three quarters, and Howard did not attempt his first shot or collect his first rebound until the final quarter.
"It's frustrating to get in foul trouble and you can't even play the way you want to play," Howard said. "But I was happy for the other guys. Everybody played tonight almost, and that's good for our team."
Howard remained on the court for the entire fourth quarter, and his layup as he was fouled by Sacramento's Jason Thompson put Orlando ahead 86-85 with 6:35 to go. Howard banked the and-one in off the backboard.
The Magic (6-3) never trailed again, and the victory gave them a big boost as they started their three-game West Coast road trip.
Though talented, Sacramento (3-6) is one of the league's bottom-feeders. The franchise fired coach Paul Westphal on Thursday and replaced him with Keith Smart, so any victory over the rebuilding Kings must be put into context.
Still, the Magic faced adversity and won on the road with contributions from up and down their roster.
Jason Richardson broke an 87-87 tie with a 3-pointer from the right corner and finished with a team-high 22 points.
Ryan Anderson, playing 30 miles from his hometown of El Dorado Hills, Calif., rebounded from his awful performance in Friday's loss to the Chicago Bulls to score 19 points and grab 11 rebounds. Despite another rough shooting night, he sank a 3-pointer that put Orlando ahead 100-92 and iced the game.
Rarely used shooting guard Von Wafer scored 12 points off the bench.
But Davis saved the day.
He embraced the "dirty work" — setting picks, diving to the floor for loose balls and moving the basketball — that prompted the Magic in December to commit $26 million to him over four seasons.
"My energy has been good the last couple of games, and the basketball gods rewarded me for playing hard," he said.
"I was just trying to have a positive attitude and do what I could with my energy. My mentality was to do my role to the max."
He also did it despite having a sore left hip from falling on a courtside cameraman on Friday. When he wasn't in the game Sunday, Davis stayed loose by going into the tunnel between the bench and the visitors' locker room.
Davis arguably made his biggest contribution early in the third quarter, after Howard was whistled for a blocking foul — his fourth personal of the game — and received his first technical of the season for commenting to the referees.
Davis came into the game and drew Cousins' fourth and fifth fouls, forcing Cousins to the Sacramento bench midway through the third quarter.
Cousins didn't return until 4:48 remained in regulation.
Cousins still finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Tyreke Evans finished with 28 points and eight assists, both game-highs.
"I thought we had a good shot, a good chance to win this game here," Smart said. "But we made some mistakes, mistakes that young teams will make down the stretch."
True. But Orlando also willed itself to the win, grabbing 17 offensive rebounds and turning the ball over just 10 times.
"We actually won the game tonight the same way we lost it the other night," Van Gundy said.
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