Despite Dwight Howard’s absence, the Orlando Magic hung with the Denver Nuggets throughout the game and came up just short, falling 103-100.
Ty Lawson led the Nuggets with 25 points and nine assists while Jameer Nelson led all scoers with 27 points and added five assists.
The Orlando Magic trailed throughout most of the first half but kept the game within striking distance and took the lead in the third quarter. However, they entered the fourth quarter trailing by two and could never cut into that lead. The Nuggets stretched the margin to nine with 1:47 to play before the Magic attempted to stage a late rally. They cut the lead to two on a J.J. Redick three-point play, but that’s when Lawson almost literally broke Ryan Anderson’s ankles (It looked like Anderson tripped over his own feet) and gave the Nuggets a four-point lead with 23.9 seconds to play. The Magic had a chance to tie the game at the buzzer but Jason Richardson’s desperation heave was no good.
The Magic played well enough to win the game on offense, but their defense was a disaster. The Nuggets shot 55.6% from the field, 42.1% from beyond the arc and posted an effective field goal percentage of 61.1%.
“We could not get a stop in any situation,” Stan Van Gundy told reporters. “It was a very frustrating night.”
Denver’s trio of guards – Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Andre Miller combined to score 62 points on 22-of-37 shooting from the field (59.5%). The ability of the Denver guards to consistently get to the rim against Orlando’s defense was the key to the game.
“I think they got to the rim a lot,” explained Jason Richardson, who had just six points on 3-of-12 shooting. “I don’t think we did a good job of keeping them out of the paint.”
Jameer Nelson had one of his best games of the season. After scoring just five points in the first half, Nelson got to the rim at will in the second half and scored 22 points. He also dished out five assists.
“I think he’s been playing well,” Van Gundy said.
Glen Davis, starting in place of an injured Glen Davis, also may have had his best game. He scored 18 points (on 6-of-14 shooting) and grabbed 16 rebounds, including nine offensive boards, which is the main reason the Magic were able to stay in the game. Davis set a career-high for bother rebounds and offensive rebounds.
“I though Glen’s effort tonight was phenomenal,” Van Gundy said.
Ryan Anderson scored 20 points while J.J. Redick added 15, but the Magic just couldn’t get stops.
“There is no plan B when you’re not getting stops,” Redick explained. “You’re never going to win games if you think you’re going to outscore people.”
- The Nuggets made 15 of their first 21 shots.
- Al Harrington was a huge thorn in Orlando’s side. The veteran forward scored 18 points.
- The Magic played just eight players, bringing Redick, Earl Clark (four points, three rebounds) and Chris Duhon off of the bench.
- Dwight Howard has now missed eight regular season games – he’s missed three because of suspension, three because of a sore left knee (December 13 and 15, 2008 and April 13, 2009 ) and two because of illness (December 3 and 4, 2010).
Next Up: The Magic will be in Detroit to take on the Pistons Tuesday.
Final Thought: The loss is understandable but it’s still another loss and with Boston and Indiana winning, the race in the East just got another game closer.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, ESPN Florida’s Magic Insider (http://ESPNFlorida.com) and is the co-host of the ESPNFlorida.com Insiders Show Sunday mornings at 10:00 am EST. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here)