Orlando Magic Grades: Denver Nuggets 121, Orlando Magic 113

With Nikola Vucevic out, the Orlando Magic were unable to overcome a weak first-half performance as they ran out of gas late in a 121-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

VS.

1 2 3 4 T
Nuggets 32 33 27 29 121
Magic 29 29 37 18 113

With the defense unable to string together stops, the Orlando Magic lost their 15th game of the year without one of their best offensive weapons in Nikola Vucevic out with a knee injury. The game was close late, but Orlando shot just 7 for 21 in the final quarter to fall 121-113 at the Amway Center on Saturday.

As has been the story for the Magic all season, when the defense shows up, the Magic win games. Tonight, it only showed up for about a quarter and a half and it was not enough to scratch out another win.

The Magic did not get off to a strong start against the Nuggets. In the first half, the Magic gave up 65 total points and allowed the Nuggets to shoot 55 percent from the field. Orlando would go into halftime trailing 65-58.

It was obvious this team missed Nikola Vucevic, who was out with a lower back injury. The Magic promoted center Stephen Zimmerman, the rookie second-round draft pick fresh off a plane from Erie, Pa., in response to the injury. Sadly, Zimmerman struggled for most of his six minutes on the floor as Nikola Jokic took him to school in the second quarter.

Neither the starters nor backups were able to slow the Denver offense as they (specifically Juancho Hernangomez and Danilo Gallinari) hit a litany of threes to put the Magic down in a big hole.

Denver also racked up a ton of second-chance points as Kenneth Faried and the other Denver bigs attacked the boards without fear.

Although the defense struggled early on, the Magic still had a chance to come from behind and win this ball game. Orlando answered the call in the second half. The third quarter was the team’s best quarter. The defense looked much better and Serge Ibaka and Evan Fournier willed the Magic back into the game.

The Magic were down 11 when Ibaka showed up. He blocked a shot that led to a Magic fast break where he would be rewarded with transition three. Orlando would not look back, retaking the lead heading to the fourth quarter in a 37-27 third quarter.

Heading into the final quarter, the game was Orlando’s to win.

The final quarter would not go in Orlando’s favor as the Magic were ice cold down the stretch.

As Orlando is undergoing a tough stretch on their schedule, the team ran out of gas late. Add on to the fact Vucevic was on the pine, this game was not one Orlando wanted to have slip away.

Evan Fournier

G/F, Orlando Magic

B+

Although Evan Fournier was quiet early on, he turned on his offensive game in the second half. He led the charge as the Magic fought back to take the lead with a few minutes left in the third. That would be the Magic’s first lead since the first quarter.

Fournier ended his night with 24 points on 9-for-19 shooting. He also added six assists to his tally.

It is easy to forget how important Fournier is to this offense. During some stretches, it seems like he is the only player on the team that can score. Defensively, Fournier was able to keep the Denver guards at bay. Another solid performance from Fournier against his former team.

Serge Ibaka

F, Orlando Magic

B

All in all, Serge Ibaka had a tremendous game.

On offense, Ibaka had one of his best performances of the night. He was able to score inside and out and dropped 22 points on the night. Defensively, Ibaka turned it on in the second half. He swatted away four shots as the Magic were finally able to shut down the Nuggets in the paint.

The only problem with Ibaka tonight was his lack of activity on the boards. He only had four rebounds the entire night. It was the only flaw, but a big one at that for Ibaka tonight.

Bismack Biyombo

C, Orlando Magic

C+

Tonight was a gritty performance from Bismack Biyombo. With a banged up shoulder, Biyombo was able to make an impact defensively.

At times he seemed limited and tentative, but Biyombo played major minutes while banged up which was impressive. Denver did have a big night down low. Frankly, it is hard to put all the blame on Biyombo, but Denver clearly attacked him.

His play on the court on a normal night would have probably earned him a below average grade, but his toughness may have given the under-manned Magic a boost needed to steal this game.

Denver Nuggets

9-15, 10th West

B

The Denver Nuggets tore apart the typically stingy Orlando defense. The Denver bigs scored in the paint at will as Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo both played extended roles with Nikola Vucevic on the sidelines.

Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic had big nights and even Kenneth Faried was able to put the ball in the basket. Along with the big men, Danilo Gallinari gave Aaron Gordon, who is the team’s best perimeter defender, fits all night long.

Denver did have issues defensively, particularly in the second half. The Magic scored well over 100 points which is uncharacteristic so far this season. But the Nuggets made all the plays down the stretch to secure the victory. A gutsy road win for Denver.

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