Denton's Dish: The 5th Quarter (3/12/14)

By John Denton
March 12, 2014

ORLANDO – Orlando saw a double-digit lead vanish for a second consecutive game when the Denver Nuggets turned things around in the second quarter and poured in 68 points in the second half of a 120-112 defeat of the Magic.

Here are five takeaways from Wednesday night’s game at the Amway Center:

KEY MOMENT OF THE GAME: Orlando raced to an early 13-point lead and seemed to be on the verge of running the reeling Nuggets out of the Amway Center. But in the second quarter, the game turned around completely – just as it had two nights earlier when the Magic raced to an 18-point lead in Milwaukee only to squander it as well.

The Magic started the second quarter with five reserves on the floor and they allowed Denver to make 58 percent of its shots in the second period. And the final minute of the first half was the worst stretch of basketball of the game for Orlando.

Wilson Chandler drilled a 3-pointer to make it 48-all and get the Nuggets even with the Magic for the first time. From there, Jameer Nelson fouled Ty Lawson on a jump shot for a three-point play with 4.1 seconds left in the half. Lawson then stole Kyle O’Quinn’s in-bounds pass to lead to a Kenneth Faried free throw that gave Denver a two-point halftime lead.

``Some things you can’t control, but that was our game I thought throughout the whole game,’’ said Tobias Harris, who scored 11 points off the bench. ``It’s disappointing again to lose that game.’’

DEFENSIVELY DEFICIENT: Orlando failed to take away much of anything defensively on Wednesday, allowing Denver to score 120 points, shoot 51.1 percent, score 54 points in the paint, hit 10 3-pointers and get to the free throw line 24 times (with 16 makes).

Defense has been a glaring area of weakness over the past month for the Magic. Often, Orlando has played well enough to win offensively – Wednesday night was another example of that with 48 percent shooting, nine 3-pointers and six players in double digits – but the inability to get consecutive stops has done the Magic in repeatedly.

In the 12 games since the All-Star break, Orlando has given up more than 100 points. The two games that they didn’t were against Philadelphia and the 76ers barely qualify as a NBA squad right now with their gutted roster.

For the season, Orlando is just 5-35 when it gives up 100 points and it is 0-31 when getting rebounded. They have given up 120 points nine times, including twice to the Nuggets.

QUOTABLE: Among the many things that the young and inexperienced Magic still have to learn, learning how to play with leads is another item of improvement, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said.

``We actually talked about it in the huddle about being able to learn from situations like in Milwaukee (on Monday) and being able to play that possession and respond to the moment that you are in right now,’’ Vaughn said. ``We’ll continue to get better at that and we’ll continue to be in situations like that where we are up 10, 18 or 20 in the first or second, and we’ll be able to respond and keep that lead throughout.’’

MAGIC MEMORIES: Wednesday’s game was Brian Shaw’s first back in Orlando as a head coach in the NBA. Shaw, a first-year head coach, played for the Magic from 1994-97 and he said rarely a day goes by that he doesn’t think about Orlando’s loss to the Houston Rockets in the 1995 NBA Finals.

Shaw had breakfast on Wednesday with Brian Hill, his head coach in Orlando when the Magic were in championship contention. The two talked about old times and about Shaw’s struggles as a first-year coach with the Nuggets.

``He laughed at me this morning and said, `Baptism by fire, huh?’’’ Shaw said of Hill, who now works as a Magic analyst for Fox Sports Florida. ``With me getting my feet wet in the coaching realm, and it seems like just yesterday (he was playing for Hill). And now I’m a coach just like he was.’’

KEY STATISTIC OF GAME: Vaughn said Wednesday morning that defending the paint against the attacking and aggressive Nuggets would be a key for the Magic being able to win the game.

Denver ended up outscoring the Magic 54-40 in the paint and 32-16 in the second half in paint points. Kenneth Faried (26 points and nine rebounds) and J.J. Hickson (20 points and nine rebounds) were giving up plenty of size, but they dominated the game by repeatedly scoring off dribble penetration by Ty Lawson (17 points and 12 assists).