DENVER – The Orlando Magic fell to the Denver Nuggets in a gut-wrenching fashion. The final score was 113 – 104 behind Jamal Murray’s explosive 33 points on 11/19 shooting and Nikola Jokic’s 18 points, 9 rebounds and 12 assists.
Jokic once again showed why he’s one of the best big men in the NBA with his near triple double performance. This includes his timely off-balance one-legged three with the shot clock winding down putting his team up 10 late in the 4th.
Murray and Jokic were electric. However, in a game where the Magic led the Nuggets 60 – 45 at the half, as a team looking to make the playoffs in the Eastern conference, these are the games you need to win.
Coach Clifford on Murray and Jokic’s two-man game, “Brutal. One of the best in the league.”
The Magic truly lost the game in the 3rd quarter as the lead was at one point 69-50 before the Nuggets rattled off 24 straight points. The Nuggets finished the 3rd quarter with 39 points while the Magic struggled with 16 points at the end of the period.
Vucevic on the Nuggets comeback, “Third quarter you know on both ends, we kind of you know after we couldn’t make shots, we got good looks, we let it affect our defense, and you know they scored 39 and we only scored 16.”
Coach Steve Clifford credited the Nuggets defense during their 24-0 run saying, “Their defense was good” also noting that there were 6 straight possessions where Orlando failed to finish plays.
“It’s not fighting through, it’s finishing plays. It’s not effort based, I mean it’s we got to make more shots we got to finish more plays”, Coach Clifford on Orlando’s performance.
Although finishing in a tough loss, Nikola Vucevic and DJ Augustin turned in quality performances. Vucevic contributed 20 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, while Augustin finished with 18 points and 7 assists off the bench.
Jonathan Isaac exited the game late in the 4th quarter due to hamstring and lower back tightness and his presence was missed as expressed by Coach Clifford, “JI has been our best defender and hardest on the glass too.”
Aaron Gordon struggled offensively for a third straight game. “You know he’s not hitting his spot ups right, so tonight he had 5 spot ups and you know he will I mean last year he ended up shooting 39% from three on his spot ups, and this year, you know he’s at a lot less than that and that sets up everything for everybody”, said Coach Clifford.
It’s notable that the Magic have lost 4 of the last 5 games.
Two trends to pay attention to, are Orlando’s lack of rebounding and their accumulation of technical fouls in the last 5 games.
During this stretch, the Magic have amassed a total of 14 technical fouls as well as combining for an average of 38.6 rebounds, 5.7 below their season average of 44.3. Within this 5-game stretch, the Magic have a combined-9.6 rebounding average against their opponents.
In each of the last two games against the Jazz and the Nuggets, Orlando finished -17 in rebounds greatly limiting their number of possessions.
The Magic conclude their 4-game Western Conference road trip on Friday as they travel to Portland to face off against Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers.