Magic Unable to Hold Off Nuggets Down the Stretch

by Josh Cohen

The Lead

Playing once again with just eight players, five of them fully healthy, the Orlando Magic pushed the Denver Nuggets to the limit. The Magic led by 18 at halftime and had chances down the stretch to recapture momentum after the Nuggets stormed back. In the end, though, it was Denver that made the necessary plays in crunch time to pull out a 119-109 victory on Sunday night. Six Orlando players scored in double figures, including Terrence Ross and Chuma Okeke, who each had 19 points.

Key Stretch

Denver closed the game on an 18-7 run. Key buckets in that stretch included dunks by Will Barton and Aaron Gordon, who was traded to the Nuggets from the Magic at the trade deadline, and 3-pointers from Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The Nuggets also outscored the Magic by 17 in the third quarter.

Injury Report

Out sick for the Magic were Michael Carter-Williams and Khem Birch. James Ennis III and Mo Bamba managed to play despite also battling non-COVID related illnesses. Chasson Randle (hamstring) also played, but he wasn’t 100 percent. Injured and unavailable were Otto Porter Jr. (left foot pain), Cole Anthony (non-displaced fracture, right rib), Karim Mane (sore right hamstring) and Gary Harris (strained left adductor). Markelle Fultz (torn ACL, left knee) and Jonathan Isaac (left knee rehabilitation) are both out for the season.

Top Performer

Playing against his former team and making his first start of his NBA career, R.J. Hampton posted a career-best 16 points to go along with four rebounds, three assists and two steals. The 6-foot-4, 175-pound combo guard, who scored Orlando’s first seven points, shot 7-of-13 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range.

Rookie Watch

Continuing to get better and gain more confidence game after game is Okeke, who filled up the stat sheet against Denver with 19 points, seven rebounds, a career-best five assists, two steals and one block. He has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games.

Key Stats

Denver dominated on the glass. They out-rebounded Orlando 54-36 and had 19 offensive boards, which led to 17 second-chance Nuggets points. The Nuggets were also the more physical team. They attempted 14 more free throws than the Magic.

Quote of the Night

“He’s good. He’s a talented young guy. He has a lot of skills to his game. He’s trying to figure everything out right now, so anytime I can just talk to him and give him a little bit of advice I try to. This is good. The only way you’re going to learn is by playing the game, getting those repetitions, and gaining minutes. He’ll figure it out. He has a bright future. He’s super talented.” – Ross on Hampton

Up Next

The Magic will now return home and play four straight at the Amway Center, starting with Wednesday’s matchup against the Washington Wizards at 7 p.m. The Wizards, who have lost three straight, have been without All-Star Bradley Beal their last four games. He is nursing a hip injury. In their most recent loss, which came against the Dallas Mavericks, Russell Westbrook tallied 26 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, while Robin Lopez scored 18 points off the bench.

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