The Orlando Magic continued their latest homestand by facing the Denver Nuggets last night at Amway Center. the matchup was the second night of a back-to-back for the Magic, who are in the midst of a 4-game winning streak, managed a victory over the Nuggets 124-119.
The World Champion Nuggets were coming off of a controversial Monday night game, where both Nicola Jokic were ejected from the game.
Orlando, ranked as the number one defensive team in the NBA at the moment, would have to fight and scrap against what is considered the NBA gold standard for its fifth win, and they did.
Denver put that on display when they opened the game on a 10-4 run, partially on back to back three point shots by guard Reggie Jackson.
Orlando followed Coach Jamal Mosley and staff’s plan of keeping the ball moving, sweeping in for loose balls and making deflections, in the paint putbacks solid midrange jumpers to even the game out at 20-20 by the end of the first half.
Though Denver has the mammoth phenom Jokic at center, they are also deadly with their three point shooting, with Michael Porter Jr, Jackson, Aaron Gordon, and even Chris Brun hitting from deep to keep their numbers up.
Orlando’s first half scoring came throughout the roster, with key plays by Paolo Banchero, Jalen Suggs, and Goga Bitadze, Joe Ingles, Cole Anthony, and Jonathan Isaac from the bench, all contributing to keep Orlando in the game.
Orlando’s bench outscored the Denver bench 31 – 9 in the first half, which ended in a 62-56 score, with the Nuggets in the lead.
Orlando really increased focus and pressure in the second half. As the clock ticked further and further along, Orlando seemed to get more and more intense, especially in the paint.
Aaron Gordon, Jokic, and Christian Braun were attacked from all side when they made attempts in the paint, with Magic players Jalen Suggs, Jonathan Isaac, Franz and Moritz Wagner wrestling and fighting for loose balls.
Late in the game, Jalen Suggs and Jokic got tangled up in one of these exchanges, with both falling to the floor. Both fighting to get up. As Jokic emerged, Suggs did as too. Jokic inadvertently hit Suggs in the face and caused him to he the floor agin as the giant stepped over him.
Both players were called for general fouls, though Jokic’s actions seemed more flagrant.
The Magic managed to endure the Nuggets late game pushes with key shots from Joe Ingles, Franz Wagner, and Gary Harris, and secured the lead for the win in the final ticks of the clock.
The Magic had even scoring throughout the lineup, with six players scoring in double figures. Franz Wagner led the team with 27 points, followed by Paolo Banchero with 23 points.
Orlando finished with 58 points from the bench, including 20 points from Cole Anthony, compared to only 25 points from the Nuggets bench, proving once again the depth of the Orlando roster as being one of it’s strengths.
For Denver, Joikic scored a triple double with 30 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists, truly an admiral game. The Nuggets shot 47% with Michael Porter Jr shooting over 50% from deep. They were even with the Magic in rebounds and gave up 12 turnovers. Not a bad game.
It was that extra intensity from the Magic; from Jalen Suggs and Paolo, and from the Orlando crowd, who haven’t been louder since the last playoff game at Amway Center. Goga Bitadze proved to be a good deterrent to Jokic as he effectively got in his way and agitated him without fouling until late in the game.
Orlando will need that intensity in their next game on Friday, as the Boston Celtics come to town to play the final NBA Cup Tournament game in Group C. Orlando not 2-1, which Boston is 3-0, going into this game.