While others players might have become a distraction or hung their head, Victor Oladipo said he’d embrace his role when he was moved to Orlando’s bench last month.
The guard certainly seems comfortable while leading the Magic on their recent surge.
Following the end of a five-game win streak, Oladipo looks to help surprising Orlando regroup Tuesday night and avoid a seventh consecutive road loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Oladipo had been averaging 12.8 points and shooting 37.0 percent during a 6-8 start before coach Scott Skiles decided it was "time to change the lineup" and replaced him in the starting five with Channing Frye.
The third-year pro has been a different player since, averaging 18.5 points on 44.6 percent shooting in his six games as a reserve to help the Magic (11-9) jump out to their best 20-game start since opening 13-7 in 2011.
His recent strong play has helped Orlando average 104.8 points in its past five, a bump of 4.3 per game that may not seem like much until you consider that the Magic have been playing tight games with six of their losses coming by six points or fewer.
Oladipo finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks Saturday but missed a key stretch in the fourth quarter as the Los Angeles Clippers snapped the Magic’s win streak by rallying from a 12-point deficit in a 103-101 home win.
Orlando led by eight with 4:48 left when Oladipo knocked knees with Los Angeles’ Jamal Crawford, and the Clippers had taken the lead by the time he returned. Oladipo, who is expected to play, totaled 38 points and shot 15 of 28 in two losses to Denver last season.
"I think we’ve been playing good basketball," he said. "This is a little bump in the road, but at the end of the day, it’s going to happen. We just have to bounce back now."
The Magic will look to improve to 3-1 on a five-game trip, though they’ve dropped the past five meetings with the Nuggets (8-13) and 12 of their past 13 at the Pepsi Center.
Evan Fournier, acquired from Denver prior to the 2014-15 season, missed a 3-point attempt at the buzzer in a 93-90 road loss Jan. 7 in the most recent matchup. Fournier is averaging a team-high 16.3 points this season but just 10.3 over the past six games.
The Nuggets open a three-game homestand after winning the last two on a five-game trip. Danilo Gallinari had 24 points and Will Barton 16 in Saturday’s 108-105 win at Philadelphia.
"We’ll take the win obviously, but there’s a lot of things that we have to clean up moving forward," said coach Mike Malone after his team committed 17 turnovers and allowed the 76ers to shoot 50.0 percent from the field and 15 for 31 (48.4) from 3-point range.
Gallinari leads Denver with 17.7 points per game, while Barton has averaged 18.0 over his last three. Gallinari scored 40 and hit six 3-pointers in a 119-100 victory at Orlando on March 22.
Since averaging 81.3 points in the last four of an eight-game losing streak, the Nuggets have put up 107.0 over their last two. Orlando let Los Angeles shoot 45.1 percent from the field Saturday after allowing 91.8 points per game and a 40.1 field-goal percentage during its winning streak.
Gary Harris could return for the Nuggets after missing the past five games with a concussion.