Magic Overcome 16-Point Deficit to Beat Nuggets in Thriller

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

Cool, calm, and collected. That the Orlando Magic were in the second half of their 108-103 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday at Amway Center. The resilience and poise they showed down the stretch wasn’t anything new, though. In all five of their wins this season, the Magic have outscored their opponent in the fourth quarter.

Top Performers

Back after missing the last six games with a sprained right ankle, Cole Anthony recorded a game-high 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds and seven assists. Wendell Carter Jr., who also played terrific defense on reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic, scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half.

Clutch Moments

Anthony and Monte Morris had a bit of a duel in the latter part of the fourth. Anthony made three straight shots – one a layup and the other two mid-range jumpers – and Morris knocked down a pair of 20-foot pull-up jumpers. The biggest shot of the night, though, was made by Franz Wagner when he drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining. Will Barton missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds left. After grabbing the rebound and getting fouled by Aaron Gordon, who was playing in his first game in Orlando since getting traded to Denver in the middle of last season, Anthony buried a pair of free throws to seal it.

Key Stats

The Magic outscored the Nuggets in the paint 66-38. Eighteen of those Orlando paint points came in the fourth. Orlando trailed by as many as 16 in the first half. It was the second straight game the Magic erased a 16-point deficit, although in that last game in Philadelphia they were ultimately unable to fend off the 76ers.

Injury Report

Jalen Suggs (right thumb), Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle; health and safety protocols), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain) were out for Orlando. For Denver, P.J. Dozier (left ACL), Bones Hyland (health and safety protocols), Jamal Murray (left knee), Michael Porter Jr. (low back), and Austin Rivers (health and safety protocols) were unavailable.

This Day in History

Many remember the inbounds lob delivered by Hedo Turkoglu to Dwight Howard for a game-winning slam against the Spurs in 2007. Earlier that season, Turkoglu had a different inbounds lob that led to a game-winning shot. It occurred on Dec. 1, 2006 at Portland, where the 6-foot-10 playmaking forward found Grant Hill for a go-ahead layup with 0.3 seconds left to lift the Magic past the Blazers. Six Orlando players scored in double figures that night, including Howard who had 18 points and 16 rebounds. Zach Randolph led the Blazers with 28 points.

Rivals Report

The Nuggets have been decimated by injuries early in the season. Jokic missed a few games with a wrist injury; Murray is still recovering from his torn ACL; Dozier tore his ACL a couple weeks ago; Porter Jr. is out for the remainder of the season with a back injury; a couple of their other players are currently in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Although unlikely he will win the MVP award for a second straight year, mostly because of how dazzling Stephen Curry has been, Jokic is arguably having an even better season than last year.

Quote of the Night

“It’s one thing to watch the game. It’s one thing to play the game. I’ve been watching a bunch of film and watching obviously the team play a lot and just kind of dissecting the game. But once you go out there and play, it’s a little bit (of a) different story. It took me a second to kind of get that going. But once I got that going, it felt good man. Back to normal Cole, normal Cole stuff.” – Anthony

Up Next

First up on the Magic’s five-game, 11-day road trip is a clash with the Houston Rockets on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. Like the Magic, the Rockets are building for the future. Jalen Green, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood are among the young players developing in Stephen Silas’ fast-paced system. They are averaging the most possessions in the league per 48 minutes, although their offense ranks 28th. Their defense, surprisingly considering they have the worst record in the Western Conference, has exceeded expectations. Entering Wednesday’s NBA action, they ranked 15th in opponent field goal percentage and eighth in opponent 3-point percentage.

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