It’s Game Day 43 and the Magic return to the Amway to face the Denver Nuggets. This is the first of three hard games against tough opponents from the Western Conference in the next 4 nights.
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The tip time is shown on the NBA app and Orlando Magic website as being a 11pm here in the UK (7pm Eastern for our friends in Orlando).
THE MATCHUP AS WE FACE THE DENVER NUGGETS
The Nuggets last played on Sunday night, losing at home to the New Orleans Pelicans by 113-108. Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with a triple-double, as he scored 29 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 1 block and 1 steal. Three other Denver players made double figure scoring, being Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr and Jamal Murray.
Orlando’s last game saw the Magic return to a losing performance by getting heavily beaten by the Boston Celtics 96-112. On a poor shooting night too many missed free throws saw Orlando always struggling to stay in touch. Nikola Vucevic yet again led the team with another double-double.
The Nuggets have won 13 of 21 road games this season. Orlando have won 9 of 22 games at home in the Amway. Season records see Orlando at 14-28, whilst Denver are at 25-17. Across the last 10 games that each team has played the Nuggets have a 8-2 record, whilst Orlando are 1-9. Both teams are on a 1 game losing streak.
Orlando remain 14th in the Eastern Conference, whilst the Denver are 5th in the Western Conference.
OUR OPPONENTS – THE DENVER NUGGETS
Last season saw Denver lose in the Western Conference Finals 1-4 to the Lakers, having finished with 46-27 record, being 3rd in the Western Conference.
The Nuggets come into the game as the NBA’s 4th ranked offensive team, scoring on average 115.9 points per game. A defensive rating at 16th sees them conceding 110.7 points per game.
Offensively they play at a patient, slow pace being 29th in the NBA. They are not afraid to build a scoring opportunity slowly, using the full shot clock. When it comes to fast break points they score a league middling 11.9 per game, so they are very capable of going fast when the need or chance arises. Scoring wise 34.8% of their points per game come from beyond the arc, whilst 52% is from inside the paint. They do not get to the free throw line very often, averaging 19.5 attempts per game, of which they make 15.3 per game. They shoot a field goal percentage of 48.8% (3rd in the NBA) and 38.8% with the 3 ball (5th in the NBA). Denver have an assist rate per game to envy with 26.9 as they move the ball freely (Orlando has 22.6). This is a dangerous team on offence.
Defensively they rate just above Orlando in blocks (4.3 per game) but are very good at getting steals (8.2 per game), so expect to see very active hands. They turn the ball over at a low rate of 13.5 times per game. They foul a lot on average 19.3 times per game, 15th in the league.
THE DENVER NUGGETS SQUAD
Coach Mike Malone has a wealth of talent, but Denver’s threat last game was all about the starting unit due to a couple of significant absences. As I write according to ESPN Gary Harris (9.7 PPG) and Monte Morris (10.4 PPG) are both out. Greg Whittington (0 PPG) is questionable.
Last time out they started Nikola Jokic (27.1 PPG), Jamal Murray (21.1 PPG), Michael Porter Jr (15.9 PPG), Will Barton (12.9 PPG) and Paul Millsap (9.1 PPG).
From the bench came PJ Dozier (7.5 PPG), Facundo Campazzo (5 PPG), JaMychal Green (9 PPG) and Isaiah Hartenstein (3.5 PPG).
The squad also features Bol Bol (2 PPG), Vlatko Cancar (1.4 PPG), RJ Hampton (2.5 PPG), Markus Howard (1.1 PPG) and Zeke Nnaji (3.6 PPG).
THE HEAD-TO-HEAD: THE DENVER NUGGETS
The head-to-head record sees the Magic leading 32-31 in the 63 regular season games played.
This will be the first meeting of the season.
Last season saw the Magic swept 2-0 by Denver, who have won the last 8 matchups. Orlando last won this fixture on March 15th 2016 by 110-116.
The teams have never met in the playoffs.
WILL TRADE DEADLINE AFFECT THE FIXTURE?
That is a good question.
Aaron Gordon is reported to have asked for a trade from Orlando in February. Evan Fournier is an expiring contract at the season end.
Whilst a deal with Boston is seen by many as the front runner for both players, Denver are also seen as a possible destination. Gordon would provide additional defence in a starting role, whilst Fournier would provide shooting depth in a sixth man role.
Both could easily be absent from the rotations for Orlando tonight as we face the Denver Nuggets as a result.
THE MAGIC INJURY AND ABSENCE REPORT
As I write the injury report has been updated on ESPN but as we have seen of late is fluid right up to tip off. That will be true of tonight as trade deadline approaches.
Terrence Ross (16 PPG) is out with knee soreness.
Chasson Randle (5.7 PPG) is listed as day-to-day.
Mo Bamba (4.6 PPG) is listed as questionable for tonight with a hamstring issue.
Cole Anthony (11 PPG) remains out with a non-displaced rib fracture. He is said not to be close to returning yet having only recently began light shooting practice.
Markelle Fultz (12.9 PPG) has a torn left knee ACL, a season finishing injury. He is now in the lengthy process of rehab following successful surgery.
Jonathan Isaac is out indefinitely recovering from knee surgery for a torn ACL.
THE MAGIC LINE-UP AS WE FACE THE DENVER NUGGETS
The starting unit against Boston was Michael Carter-Williams (9.2 PPG), Evan Fournier (19.1 PPG), Aaron Gordon (14.7 PPG), Al-Farouq Aminu (4.7 PPG) and Nikola Vucevic (24.6 PPG).
From the bench came James Ennis III (7.7 PPG), Dwayne Bacon (10.1 PPG), Khem Birch (5.4 PPG), Chasson Randle (5.7 PPG), Chuma Okeke (4.6 PPG), Gary Clark (3.4 PPG) and Karim Mane (1 PPG).
THE MAGIC NUMBERS
EASTERN CONFERENCE STANDING – 14th
SEASON RECORD – 14-28
HOME RECORD – 9-13
ROAD RECORD – 5-15
NBA OFFENSIVE RANK AND RATING – 27TH OF 30 (105.7)
NBA DEFENSIVE RANK AND RATING – 18TH OF 30 (112.6)
POINTS PER GAME – 29TH OF 30 (104.5)
OPPONENTS POINTS PER GAME – 15TH OF 30 (111.3)
RECORDS WHEN LEADING AND SCORING
RECORD LEADING AFTER THE FIRST QUARTER – 7-9
WHEN LEADING AT HALF TIME – 12-3
AND WHEN LEADING GOING INTO THE FOURTH QUARTER – 10-3
RECORD WHEN SCORING LESS THAN 100 POINTS – 1-17
WHEN SCORING 100 TO 109 POINTS – 4-7
WHEN SCORING 110 TO 119 POINTS OR MORE – 3-3
AND WHEN SCORING 120 POINTS OR MORE – 6-1
RECORDS FOR CONCEDING THIS SEASON
RECORD WHEN CONCEDING 100 POINTS OR LESS – 5-2
WHEN CONCEDING 100 TO 109 POINTS – 3-6
AND WHEN CONCEDING 110 TO 119 POINTS – 4-9
RECORD WHEN CONCEDING 120 POINTS OR MORE – 2-10
LEAST AND LARGEST ON THE SEASON
LARGEST MARGIN OF VICTORY – 20 – GAME DAY 7 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
LARGEST MARGIN OF DEFEAT – 42 – GAME DAY 9 HOUSTON ROCKETS
HIGHEST POINTS SCORED THIS SEASON – 130 – GAME DAY 2 WASHINGTON WIZARDS
LEAST POINTS SCORED THIS SEASON – 77 – GAME DAY 38 SAN ANTONIO SPURS
MOST POINTS CONCEDED THIS SEASON – 132 – GAME DAY 9 HOUSTON ROCKETS
LEAST POINTS CONCEDED THIS SEASON – 83 – GAME DAY 7 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
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KEYS TO THE GAME AS WE FACE THE DENVER NUGGETS
Orlando could look different tonight as we face the Denver Nuggets. It is possible players could be held out due to potential trades. As such any comment on what Orlando need to do in this game is pure guess work without being privy to insider team knowledge.
In facing Denver tonight Orlando have to find a defensive intensity that was missing for period in Boston. There will be opportunity to score and the team can not afford to be so inaccurate with their chances. Free throws have to be made.
With Harris and Morris being out it sees less threat from the Nuggets bench as depth is reduced. That starting unit contains arguably the leagues leading centre, Nikola Jokic. Leading the league in made field goals with 446 and 5th in points scored at 1138 he is a huge danger in the paint. He can also pass the ball, being third in assist this season with 361. He is also third in the NBA for steals with 67. Throw in the threat from Jamal Murray and the growth of Michael Porter Jr then a depleted Orlando have their hands full.
Statistics were again proved right in Boston as Orlando scored less than 100 points and lost for the 17th time this season. In the last game Nikola Vucevic did not get big help in the team scoring. James Ennis III, Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier werre the only other players to make double figures. This has to improve. Solid contributions will be needed from the bench.
As previously the team can not afford to get into foul trouble. Whilst turnovers remain at a low rate for the NBA it is the type of turnover that has been hurting Orlando. They must limit live ball turnovers, these are seeing harmful points being scored from our own offensive possession. In many recent games this failing has been costly.
If Orlando fail to put in the effort this one could be a bloodbath!
KEY DATES IN THE NBA
Nine consecutive losses left Orlando adrift in the standings. It is not fun watching the team losing consistently. It is part of the reason so many of us are looking to the trade deadline and beyond. Orlando still has the 4th worst record in the NBA, so have a 12.5% chance of landing the number 1 draft pick when the lottery comes. The tough second half of the season is well underway. Being 5 games back of Indiana in 10th now makes it hard to see Orlando competing for the post season.
The dates to look for as the season progresses are:
March 25th is the NBA’s Trade Deadline.
The regular season ends May 16th.
The Play-In tournament is May 18th and 21st.
From May 22nd to July 22nd the NBA Playoffs are scheduled to run.
There is not a date set for the Draft Lottery. The 2021 NBA Draft will be held on Wednesday November 18th.