Magic 102, Nuggets 89
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)
The kind of team the Orlando Magic eventually wind up becoming this season is a long way from being determined.
But after a summer of massive changes from top to bottom, for one night at least, all the uncertainty about the franchise's long-term future was an afterthought.
On this night, the Magic were plenty happy with what they have.
''Amazing, to get our first win in this fashion,'' said Magic guard Arron Afflalo, who was traded to Orlando this summer as part of the Dwight Howard multi-team deal and finished with seven points against his former team. ''Obviously Glen and J.J. stepped up, but it was just a real inspired team effort today.''
Afterwards, the team presented first-year coach Jacque Vaughn with the game ball to commemorate his first regular-season NBA victory.
Friday marked the Magic's season-opener and first one in eight seasons without Howard, who was traded this summer to Los Angeles Lakers.
''It's exciting man, there's been a lot of change around here,'' Afflalo said. ''The expectations haven't been too high, so for us to get off to this type of start is a good feeling and we're gonna continue to take it one game at a time.''
Vaughn thanked his team in the locker room before the game for working so hard to this point.
They responded with a coach he said made him ''extremely proud.''
''It was a good feeling,'' Vaughn said. ''That's the progressive process that we're talking about, that it goes both ways. I'll give and tonight they gave as well.''
Orlando did suffer a setback, though, with starting forward Hedo Turkoglu leaving the game in the third with a broken left hand. Vaughn said he would be evaluated again Saturday.
The Nuggets dropped to 0-2 on their season-opening three-game road trip. Much like its opening loss at Philadelphia earlier this week, Denver struggled shooting the ball and was stymied by an early deficit.
''The first half we weren't very good at either end of the court,'' Denver coach George Karl said. ''In Philly, we didn't make shots, but we played great defense and stayed in the game because of that. The second half I thought we played with a lot of energy, and then you get down 20 points, that energy runs out of gas a little bit.''
Denver trimmed a 21-point first-half Magic lead to eight points late in the third quarter, but struggled in the fourth as their offensive sets stalled and the Magic were able to get some easy shots on their end.
Gallinari was also the only Denver player to consistently make it to the free-throw line, as Orlando's defense was able to contain the usually active Andre Iguodala, who was held to nine points on 3 of 10 shooting.
''This is just the beginning and we have some new guys on the team and the guys who were injured last year are now trying to get back in shape,'' Gallinari said. ''We didn't do a good job, but I am sure tomorrow we are going to do better.''
Meanwhile, Orlando has stretches of offensive crispness both in transition and in the half-court, outscoring Denver 60-36 in the paint.
''I want to let everyone know I'm here,'' Davis said. ''I'm here to seize the moment. I'm here to step in the gaps. It was a good night.''
Injuries were a problem in the preseason with several Magic players missing part or the entire exhibition schedule with various ailments.
Turkoglu's injury means Vaughn will have to get creative to fill his slot in the starting lineup, with no true small forward healthy enough to immediately fill-in.
Rookie Maurice Harkless, who was acquired in the Howard deal, would seem to be the obvious candidate. But Vaughn said that he only recently was cleared for full-contact practice following sports hernia surgery and will need a few before he's ready for game action. He is currently day-to-day.
Afflalo, at 6-foot-5, is also an option and said he's willing to step into that role if needed.
''That's my brother from another mother, man,'' said point guard Jameer Nelson. ''I've been with Turk so long. It's upsetting to see that. He'll be all right. He's a trooper and we'll pick him up.''
Orlando led 58-37 at the break, sparked by Davis and Redick, who each had 15 first-half points.
Despite a roster dealing with several early-season injuries, Vaughn substituted liberally in the early going, playing nine different players.
The fresh legs helped the flow of the offense, with the Magic moving the ball well and getting assists on 16 of their 24 field goals for the half.
The Nuggets, who scored just 38 first-half points in their season-opener, managed only 37 in the opening 24 minutes on Friday.
Nelson said Friday's start was exactly what the Magic needed going forward.
''We're in this together,'' he said.
Notes: North Carolina coach Roy Williams sat courtside Friday to support Vaughn, who is the first former Williams' player to become an NBA head coach. Vaughn played for Williams in college at Kansas. ...Orlando opened the season without backup big man Gustavo Ayon (sprained left thumb), swingman DeQuan Jones (strained hip muscle) and F Al Harrington (knee). ... Karl said C Timofey Mozgov (left knee strain) ran during shoot around on Friday, and could be ready for their home opener Tuesday against Detroit...The Magic improved to 15-9 all-time in season openers.
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