Magic Collapse Late in Denver
The Orlando Magic lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-105 on Wednesday night to run their losing streak to ten games. This one followed the script of most of the other ten games. The Magic played with grit, heart, and resiliency, but were unable to do what it takes to win the game. Orlando was led in scoring by Jameer Nelson’s 20 points. Nikola Vucevic once again posted a double-double with 10 points and 14 boards before fouling out near the end of the game. His sixth foul proved costly as the Magic failed to get a crucial rebound after a missed Denver free throw, allowing the Nuggets another late possesion.
The game started with the Magic struggling to keep up with the run and gun Nuggets, but they shot the ball very well, even opening an 8 point lead after the first quarter. Orlando once again struggled to keep the Nuggets out of the paint and off the fastbreak. After Jameer Nelson was called for a technical foul midway through the second quarter, he became much more aggressive finishing with 10 points at halftime. The score was 55-53 in favor of the Magic at the half, with all but 11 of Denver’s points coming in the painted area.
Coach Vaughn made excellent halftime adjustments, limiting the Nuggets fastbreak and tightening up the Magic’s interior defense. Andrew Nicholson had some very good inside scores, and seems ready to get more minutes, and more importantly, more late game minutes. Orlando played with poise, answering every Denver run, until the final four minutes of the game.
The leaders of this team are true professionals. Jameer and J.J were taking Nicholson and Vucevic aside during timeouts, even after the game had gone away, to keep teaching. DeQuan Jones had a very efficient night scoring 11 points, including a thunderous dunk, and seemed more comfortable and more aggressive tonight. As much as this team has gone through during this losing streak, one can only hope the basketball gods will repay them with some good fortune down the road.
To touch briefly on the negatives… Arron Afflalo tried to do too much in his return to Denver. He forced shots, committed silly fouls and played recklessly. His line for the night reads 12 points on 14 shots and 6 fouls. Josh McRoberts once again had the majority of the late game minutes at the power forward position. His defense seemed better tonight, but he made some awful decisions on the fast break and could not keep in front of Kenneth Faried, who finished with 19 points and 19 rebounds. Until Glen Davis comes back, I’d like to see Coach Vaughn give some of these minutes to Nicholson, Jones and Harkless. This season is clearly about looking to the future, so let’s see what those guys have in crunch time.
The glaring stat has to be the foul disparity. 27 fouls on Orlando, only 7 on Denver. 10 free throws for Orlando, 36 for Denver. It’s easy to look at this stat and say the game was lost within that margin, but you wouldn’t be totally correct. Watching the game, it didn’t appear to be that big of a disparity of foul calls for the Nuggets. Denver was the more aggressive team, getting to the rim, and forcing the action. There were some questionable calls against the Magic late, but that didn’t seal their fate. This team is going to struggle late in games until Big Baby comes back to reinforce interior defense and give them an actual post scoring threat to take pressure off Jameer and the wings, who need to come off screens to get their shot.
The Magic try to end the losing streak Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Tip is set for 3:30.
Matt Jensen is new to the MBO team and a proud contributing writer. He operates as MBO’s Sr. Sioux Falls Correspondent. Follow him on Twitter here.