Nuggets visit Magic, seek seventh straight win
Denver takes a six-game winning streak into Wednesday’s visit to Orlando while the Magic are seeking a positive follow-up performance from their two weeks on the road.
The Nuggets (16-7) are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the best record in the Western Conference by virtue of their longest winning streak of the season and are seeking their first seven-game winning streak since Nov. 21-Dec. 3, 2013.
Denver’s latest win was Monday’s 106-103 victory in Toronto where the game ended when Raptors guard Kyle Lowry missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer. It was the fourth single-digit victory of the streak and Denver’s sixth win overall by five points or fewer.
It also occurred on a night when leading scorer Gary Harris exited with a right hip injury in the first quarter. Harris was slated for an MRI before Wednesday’s game and will not play.
Harris missed two games because of a sore left ankle before returning to score 27 points and get the go-ahead 3-pointer with 16.5 seconds left in a 113-112 victory at Portland. Torrey Craig started both games Harris missed last week while Malik Beasley filled in for him Monday in the fourth quarter.
“We are a good team, and the fact that we are winning some of these games on the road against quality opponents says a lot, and even what I think says more is that you lose Gary Harris,” Denver coach Mike Malone said. “Our locker room is getting lonelier and lonelier; there are not many bodies in there. We never make any excuses, we don’t make explanations, and we find ways.”
Nikola Jokic recorded his second triple-double of the season with 23 points, 15 assists, and 11 rebounds. It was his best game of the streak and he is 15-of-25 from the floor in the last two games after going 16-of-54 during the previous four contests.
Jamal Murray scored 21 points and reached 20 points for the third time in four games. He recorded his seventh 20-point game after shooting 2 of 13 Friday in Portland.
Denver’s second win in the streak was a 112-87 rout of Orlando on Nov. 23 when the Nuggets pulled away in the fourth quarter. It was Orlando’s worst showing on a 3-3 road trip that ended with Tuesday’s 105-90 victory in Miami and included a win over the Los Angeles Lakers and close losses to the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers.
The Magic (12-12) are at .500 for the sixth time this season. They are 10-6 in their last 16 games since a 120-95 loss to the Clippers on Nov. 2.
Orlando is 5-2 at home since the loss to the Clippers and plays nine of its next 11 games in the Sunshine State.
To conclude the trip successfully, the Magic dominated the third quarter by a 30-12 margin and won for the second time in 12 games when trailing at halftime.
Aaron Gordon scored 16 of his 20 points in the third quarter and also grabbed 13 rebounds for his first double-double since Nov. 12.
“We just picked it up on the defensive end and that’s where we really played better,” Gordon told reporters. “That’s what really got us turned around. When we go out there and work to get stops that allows us to play in the open court and be really aggressive.”
During the trip, the Magic averaged 103.5 points and allowed 103.7. Since the ugly loss to the Clippers, Orlando is allowing 105.1 and scoring 108.8.
“We’re 6-6 (on the road) and now we’ve got to play better at home,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford told reporters. “We’ve been a lot better on the road than we have been at home. It’s the NBA — you have a good win and you feel good and then (the schedule-makers) say, ‘Come on back home, Denver is waiting.’ We’re going to have to be ready. Hopefully (on Wednesday) if we can play that same kind of defense (as Tuesday), we’ll give ourselves a chance.’