Magic Musings: Defense struggles as Orlando falters against Nuggets

Denver Nuggets point guard Nate Robinson (10) battles for the ball with Orlando Magic point guard E'Twaun Moore (55) and shooting guard Doron Lamb (1) in the second quarter.

Isaiah J. Downing/Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor

Even if the Orlando Magic were at full strength and at sea level, they would have had their hands full Saturday night with the Denver Nuggets.

The absence of Arron Afflalo on the second night of a back-to-back turned a daunting challenge into something that was more than they could handle. The Magic fell to their seventh consecutive defeat as the Nuggets jumped on them early and rolled to a 120-94 victory.

Afflalo was not in uniform because of a strained right foot, an injury that took place Friday night at Sacramento. While the Magic missed his 20.8-point scoring average, it was on defense where they struggled most.

As if the Magic weren’t already plenty shorthanded with Nikola Vucevic (concussion) and Afflalo missing, Jameer Nelson went out in the third quarter after spraining his right index finger.

Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris and Glen Davis were all in double figures by halftime. But the Magic didn’t get a basket from any of their non-starters until a reverse layup by E’Twaun Moore late in the third quarter.

Box score

With Afflalo out, Maurice Harkless made his first start since Nov. 24. He hit a 3-point shot in the early going, but that was extent of his contributions on offense in 19 minutes.

The Magic remained winless this season away from home against Western Conference opponents and are 3-16 on the road overall. The Nuggets have won five in a row following an eight-game losing streak.

Harris led the Magic with 22 points.


THE TURNING POINT

The Nuggets followed up a 34-point first quarter by outscoring the Magic 20-8 in the first six-plus minutes of the second quarter.

THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

Ty Lawson went 4 of 5 from 3-point range and finished with 16 points and eight assists, all in the first three quarters. The Nuggets placed seven players in double figures, none of whom scored more than 18 points.

STAT OF THE GAME

The 69 points by the Nuggets in the first half were a season high for a Magic opponent. The New York Knicks put up 65 before halftime against them the night of Dec. 23.

WHAT’S NEXT

Monday night at Dallas, 8:30 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida).

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.