Afterward, the veteran coach could laugh about it.
The All-Star center, who entered the game averaging 20.3 points and 15.9 rebounds, had five points and four rebounds in 20 minutes and spent most of the first three quarters in foul trouble. He didn't get his first rebound until 4 minutes into the fourth and was scoreless before converting a three-point play with 6:35 remaining, putting the Magic ahead 87-85.
"I got Dwight a lot of rest in the first half. That was a (good) coaching move," laughed Van Gundy, who received 42 points from his productive bench.
Davis earned a big share of the credit. Nicknamed "Big Baby" for his 289-pound frame and style of play, Davis consistently hit jumpers from the perimeter and used his muscle to score inside and grab eight rebounds, including five on offense. He shot 8 of 13 and had two assists in 28 minutes.
"These types of games are a tell-all for a team when you have your best player in foul trouble," said Orlando forward Ryan Anderson, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds. "We had a lot of guys back (Howard) up tonight. Glen did an amazing job off the bench."
Tyreke Evans had a season-high 28 points and eight assists for the Kings. DeMarcus Cousins, also hampered by fouls, had 16 points and 10 rebounds. J.J. Hickson added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Marcus Thornton scored 13 points.
Guarding Cousins, Howard picked up his second foul at the 10:14 mark of the first quarter and promptly left the game. He was called for a third foul midway through the second quarter and had zero points and rebounds in 6 first-half minutes.
Howard was whistled for his fourth foul at 9:57 of the third quarter. He also had a second-quarter technical for what he termed a harmless comment to the referees.
"I didn't curse and I didn't show them up," he said.
Although Howard would have preferred playing with foul trouble, he said he understood Van Gundy's decision to sit him for more than half the game.
"It's smart. He didn't want me to pick up any more cheap fouls, especially early in the game," Howard said. "He would rather have me sitting than in the game and having to be tentative."
With Howard on the bench, the Kings shot 52 percent to stay close throughout. But 17 turnovers and only 16 assists were partly to blame for the end to their modest two-game home winning streak.
"Obviously, he's the focal point of the team, an All-Star," Kings coach Keith Smart said. "It makes the game a little bit easier when the paint opens up and you don't have a guy shot-blocking and rebounding. So that was one of the keys to us staying in the game and having the lead. We just really couldn't hold onto it and extend it."
Turkoglu banked in a 3 with the shot clock running down to give Orlando a 93-89 lead with just less than 3 minutes remaining. Anderson's 3-pointer from the corner and Turkoglu's layup gave the Magic a 102-95 cushion with 35 seconds left.
Even with Howard sidelined for a large portion of the game, Cousins also got into foul trouble. He picked up two fouls in just more than a minute in the third quarter and went to the bench at the 6:54 mark with five fouls.
"We've just got to get better with late-game situations," said Cousins, who had only four points and four rebounds in the second half when he was saddled with foul problems. "It's not something we can get overnight, but we have to continue to get better. We are taking steps forward."
The game was the start of a four-game road trip for the Magic, which ends Jan. 16 against the Knicks.
The Kings' next game is Tuesday in Philadelphia, the start of a five-game road trip in seven days.
After struggling for much of the game, Anderson got going in the third quarter, scoring 11 points. Davis replaced Howard and proved to be trouble for the Kings again, scoring nine points as Orlando took an 81-79 lead into the fourth.
Despite playing almost the entire first half without Howard, the Magic led 49-47. Davis and Richardson both scored 11 points, while Evans had 15 for the Kings and Cousins added 12. The Orlando bench had 28 first-half points.
A slow starter much of the season, Cousins scored 10 points in helping the Kings to a 21-19 lead in the opening quarter.
Anderson, who missed his first six shots, grew up in nearby El Dorado Hills, about 30 miles northeast of Sacramento. He got tickets for a group of family and friends. ... Turkoglu argued a first-quarter foul and was given a technical. ... Thornton missed all seven shots in a scoreless opening half, but finally scored on a jumper early in the third quarter, when he had 10 points.