Magic Musings: Struggles all around in tough loss to Nuggets

Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton (4) has his pass blocked by Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari (8) as Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic (23) defends during the first half.

Willie J. Allen, Jr./AP

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Orlando Magic followed up an encouraging showing against the playoff-bound Portland Trail Blazers with a listless effort Sunday night against the lottery-bound Denver Nuggets.

The Magic allowed 102 points through three quarters to a team that scored only 91 Friday night in a loss at Miami as the Nuggets, behind a career-high 40 points from Danilo Gallinari, rolled to an easy 119-100 victory.

Despite being without Channing Frye for only the second time all season because of an illness, the Magic got off to a good start against the Nuggets, who were wrapping up a five-game road trip. Andrew Nicholson, making his first start in almost a year, had seven points in the first quarter to help them take a 25-20 lead.

But Jameer Nelson, the Magic’s all-time leader in assists who was playing against them as a member of the Nuggets for the first time, scored the final eight points of the quarter. After that, the Magic offered little resistance.

The Nuggets went ahead by as many as 26 points in the second quarter and led 69-51 at halftime, marking the third time in their last five games that the Magic gave up more than 60 points in a first half. Their biggest lead was at 102-69 late in the third quarter.

Nelson had 15 points and five assists despite never being used in the second half as the Nuggets improved to 7-5 under Melvin Hunt while the Magic fell to 7-13 under their interim coach, James Borrego.

Elfrid Payton’s streak of triple-doubles came to an end. The Magic rookie finished with six points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Victor Oladipo had a team-high 21 points, but 11 of those came in a meaningless fourth quarter.

Frye wasn’t the only Magic player not in uniform. For the third game in a row, forwards Tobias Harris and Dewayne Dedmon were unavailable after spraining their left ankles. But backup guard Willie Green played for the first time after missing six games with back spasms.

Box score

Green had the Magic’s only two 3-point field goals in the first half.


The Nuggets went on a 20-2 run during a five-minute stretch of the second quarter. Nelson capped the outburst with a layup in which he had a wide-open path to the basket.


Gallinari had already bettered his previous season high of 26 points less than five minutes into the third quarter. He finished 6 of 13 from 3-point range and broke the record for most points by a Nuggets player against the Magic which had stood since Michael Adams’ 37-point game in 1991.


The Nuggets had lost 11 consecutive road games against Eastern Conference opponents since winning 106-97 at Cleveland on Nov. 17.


Wednesday night vs. Atlanta, 7 p.m.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at