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Not as close as it seemed for Nuggets vs. Magic

Nate Timmons Avatar
March 16, 2016

 

The Rundown: 

The most winnable game, on paper, of the five game road trip for the Nuggets. It was the second of a back-to-back, but the Nuggets played with enough energy to make things interesting. However, they didn’t come with the defensive intensity and that has to be upsetting for head coach Michael Malone. Nuggets lose it 116-110 to the Orlando Magic.

Let’s break this one down running diary style…

First Quarter: 

-First note before tipoff: Magic starting Brandon Jennings at point guard in place of C.J. Watson, who is sick but will play the backup role (no Elfrid Payton tonight for Orlando). Jennings can light it up, but missed last game with Achilles tendon soreness. An Achilles injury scares the crap out of me every time I lace ’em up at 24 Hour Fitness. My pro-player comparison would be Matt Bonner of the Spurs … threes and terrible defense!

7:57 mark: Getting a good look at Aaron Gordon in the starting lineup for the Magic. He starts out 4-4 from the field (1-1 from deep) for 9 points. Always kind of thought of him as a Blake Griffin type player, showing some good range from 3-point land already. He was the 4th pick of the 2014 NBA draft, Nikola Jokic was the 41st pick. How high would Jokic be with hindsight? I think you could make the case for Jokic being in the 3-7 range, seriously.

Jokic nails a 3-pointer to keep the Nuggets close at the 7:40 mark of the first to make it 13-11, Magic.

-Chris Marlowe said Jusuf Nurkic is available to play tonight vs. Magic, but it’s Joffrey Lauvergne (The Masked Man) once again getting the early backup center minutes.

3:56 mark: Axel Toupane buries his first shot of the night with a corner three right in front of the Nuggets’ bench. Really encouraged about his game and potential. Might be able to carve out a role coming off the bench in the league with his defense, shooting and playmaking ability.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 5.40.24 PM2:04 mark: Just noticed Super Mario Hezonja has entered the game for Orlando. He’s been playing more under Scott Skiles recently and has been streaky, as advertised. Tweeting with a Magic fan before the game, seems Hezonja is in a similar place as Gary Harris under Brian Shaw. Playing nervous and worried that a missed shot or bad play will get him pulled… never a good way to play in your rookie season. Hezonja also has a good bounce to the back of his hair when he runs, sort of like Dennis the Menace.

 

End of first quarter: 32-25 Magic. Nuggets not too locked in on defense, giving up too many open looks as the Magic shoot 58.3 percent to Denver’s 52.4 percent. Magic winning the turnover battle 4-0.

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Second Quarter: 

8:37 mark: Altitude’s Ally Sturm gives us a little story on Joffrey’s mask (how it helps spread any direct contact to injured area to the rest of his face) and meeting all around scumbag retired boxer Floyd Mayweather (who was at the Heat game), we get a good look at Joffrey’s eye injury that resulted in a sinus fracture.

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 5.45.34 PM

2:53 mark: Jennings hits a tough jumper and tries to pick up Mudiay full-court as Mudiay turned the ball over under pressure from Watson just a couple possessions ago. Nuggets get a near shot clock violation as Jokic has to jack up a bad shot in the corner near the 3-point line and Fournier gets a three on the other end. Orlando now 6-12 from deep, compared to 2-9 for Denver.

End of the second quarter: 61-46 Magic. With the Nuggets on the second of a back-to-back, the Magic turned up the defensive pressure in the quarter and tried to suffocate Denver, worked pretty well as the turnover battle now at 9-4 in favor of Orlando (5-4 in the quarter). We’ll see how much fight the Nuggets have in the second half… hint: it’s typically a lot.

Third Quarter: 

10:10 mark: Nuggets offense unable to penetrate inside on Orlando. Mudiay misses a desperation heave as the shot clock expires, Gary Harris gets the offensive rebound, but Kenneth Faried called for the offensive foul on the moving screen. Just a lack of energy thus far for Denver and it sounds like in the building, too.

7:41 mark: Denver down 69-55 on a mini-run, but turn the ball over again and Orlando gets a two-on-one break that results in a Fournier layup on Mudiay. Fours up to 25 points on 10-13 shooting (5-7 from deep). Make it 71-55 Magic.

5:13 mark: Mudiay starting to get his offense going as he hits the 3-pointer here (cuts the lead to 12 at 75-63):

1:32 mark: D.J. Augustin feeds Joffrey for a reverse layup to make it 83-72, still in favor of the Magic, and they get a turnover on the other end as Hezonja throws the ball out of bounds. Augustin hits a three and it’s 83-75 now… Nuggets on a run.

End of the third quarter: Orlando’s 18 point lead is down to just six points as Hezonja commits another turnover that leads to a Darrell Arthur dunk. It’s 85-79 Magic headed to the fourth.

How about Marlowe poking fun at my friend Jeff Morton for his Hezonja love!

Fourth Quarter: 

9:40 mark: Barton sneaks into the lane and converts a tough layup to make it a five-point game at 89-84 for the Magic. Denver squandered a couple possessions before this, but good fight from the Nuggets. Malone relying on Augustin with Mudiay’s erratic play tonight, we’ll see if the rookie gets back on the floor.

-6:25 mark: Nuggets come apart a bit on defense as everybody seemed to switch for a possession and Augustin wound up on Ersan Ilyasova, fouled him on a jumper that he made and got the And-1. On the foul shot, Darrell Arthur got whistled for upending Jason Smith on a boxout and that got him free throws. Magic hit another shot after a wasted Denver possession and it’s suddenly 100-87 Magic. Malone going with: Augustin, Harris, Barton, Arthur and Joffrey and that group probably at the end of their run after getting the lead down to five, but allowed it to bounce back to 13.

6:13 mark: Malone going with: Mudiay, Augustin, Harris, Barton and Jokic out of the timeout. Mudiay hits a little jumper to make it 100-89. Does Denver have one final run? Jason Smith hits a jumper… can’t trade baskets. (Smith has a season high of 19 points, career high is 26 points.)

4:43 mark: Jokic with a hard foul on Fournier and Evan not happy about it. Pushes Jokic and gets in his face. Jokic has had a few wrestling matches with big guys this season, but first time I can recall seeing something like that. Fournier pretty upset, here’s a look:

 

-2:44 mark: It’s 105-100 Orlando and Jokic gets whistled on Jason Smith away from the ball, bad foul. Smith knocks down both free throws to give him 23 points (career high is 26). Harris whiffs on a three on the other end. Jokic called for another foul after bumping Jennings out near the 3-point line with the ball. Malone gets a technical after the ball as Smith wasn’t called for a moving screen that Augustin flopped on. Smith makes both free throws (misses the tech) and it’s 109-100.

-1:00 mark: Fournier goes to the foul line for his 29th and 30th point on the night. Nuggets couldn’t get over that three-point hump (85-82 at one point in the fourth) that seems to be a magical mark in NBA games when you’re down all game. Fournier was a monster in this game and gave the Nuggets all they could handle. Big game for Fours who scored just 3 points on 1-7 shooting back on Dec. 8th when these two teams met in Denver.

End of game: Magic win it 116-110 over the Nuggets. Orlando sweeps the season series against the Nuggets as they won back in December in Denver 85-74.

BY THE NUMBERS: 

From NBA.com
From NBA.com

 

LASTING IMPACT: This was the most winnable game on paper for the Nuggets on this five (now three) game road trip. Denver drops to 28-40 and are just one loss away from insuring they will go .500 or less this season. The Nuggets are also just two wins away from matching their win total from last season when they went 30-52.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Nuggets are back in action Thursday, March 17th against the Atlanta Hawks, another early tip at 6:00 p.m. MST.

 

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