Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic game preview
The Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic are still alive in the playoff race, but time is running out.
Kenneth Faried attempts to match the team record for consecutive baskets made while trying to help the Nuggets capitalize on a matchup with the collapsing Magic on Tuesday night.
Denver (28-39) is six games back of Houston and Dallas for the last two postseason positions in the Western Conference with 15 games to go, while Orlando (28-37) trails Chicago by five games for eighth in the East with 17 to play.
The Nuggets are at least finding a rhythm with a 116.3 scoring average during a 5-2 stretch, but they’re surrendering 108.3 over that span. Denver gave up 59.5 percent shooting in Monday’s 124-119 defeat at Miami.
Faried, though, is looking to build on an impressive performance. The forward had 24 points and 11 rebounds while connecting on all 11 of his attempts from the floor to match Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter for the best effort in the league this season.
"I just played basketball," Faried said. "Just trying to get a ‘W.’ We lost, so it’s tough."
Faried will need to hit his next six tries in order to tie the Nuggets’ consecutive shots made record set by Bobby Jones in December 1976.
He’s been an abysmal 7 for 30 from the field while averaging 6.7 points during the last three meetings with Orlando. Faried missed 10 of 12 shots and finished with seven points in an 85-74 loss to the Magic on Dec. 8.
Rookie Emmanuel Mudiay had six points in that matchup, but he’s averaging 20.1 in the past seven games after scoring 23 with 10 assists Monday.
The Magic are 9-24 since the start of the year and have dropped four of five after Saturday’s 121-84 loss at Portland, their most lopsided defeat of the season. The listless performance, which included shooting 37.4 percent from the floor, came one day after they shot 51.9 percent in a 107-100 win at Sacramento.
"Our issue lately has been playing a pretty good game, getting a win and then following it up by not playing well at all," coach Scott Skiles said. "Not even resembling the team we were the night before. That’s been our issue."
Evan Fournier is giving Orlando hope for the future over the last four games, averaging 18.5 points while sinking 51.0 percent from the field.
"He’s still a young player learning what it takes in the NBA to be successful every night," Skiles said. "He’s at a challenging position. Every night he’s playing against a very talented player. He has been overall the most consistent offensive player we’ve had."
Fournier, however, had three points in December’s meeting at Denver, the team he spent his first two seasons with.
Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton had 18 points each in that matchup, but they’re both expected to be out this time. Vucevic (groin) has missed the last four games and Payton (elbow) has been sidelined for the past two.
Denver has won three of four in Orlando after going 3-20 in its first 23 visits.