Denver Nuggets vs. Orlando Magic Summer League Preview: Battle of the Bigs

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

LAS VEGAS -- The Nuggets’ Summer League opener on Friday was canceled due to the impact of earthquake aftershock. With the game not being rescheduled, Denver’s Summer League head coach Jordi Fernandez and his players know there’s a lot at stake in the remaining three preliminary games. 

“That’s the bad part,” Fernandez told CBS4. “I thought the guys deserved to play all four of those (preliminary games) and then the playoff game, but we’re going to make the best of it.”

Denver will now begin its Summer League action against the Orlando Magic in what should be a tightly-contested game on Sunday at the Cox Pavilion. 

TUNE IN: Nuggets vs. Magic, 4 p.m. MT, NBA TV

Here are the three keys to the game: 

Who will guard Mo Bamba?

The Magic are headlined by 2018 No. 6 pick Mo Bamba, who impressed in the team’s earthquake-shortened opening 75-59 win over the San Antonio Spurs. The forward, who suffered a significant injury that prematurely ended his season, dropped 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting.  

While Bamba is still working his way back to fitness, he’s an athletic player who’s showcased some range in Orlando’s opener, hitting 2-of-2 from downtown. The 21-year-old will be a difficult assignment, but fortunately for the Nuggets, there are plenty of options on defense. Jarred Vanderbilt’s quickness and ability to grab rebounds should affect some of Bamba’s effectiveness. Tyler Cook and Thomas Welsh could also see some time against the Magic’s big man. 

Cleaning up the glass

If there’s one advantage the Nuggets might have throughout Summer League, it could be size. Denver’s starting frontcourt could be Vlatko Čančar (6-foot-8), Jarred Vanderbilt (6-foot-9) and Thomas Welsh (7-foot). 

“We're actually a pretty tall team, with a lot of big guys,” Čančar told Nuggets.com on Tuesday. “We're the kind of team that's supposed to dominate in rebounding because everyone is a good rebounder.” 
 
Though the Magic dominated the Spurs, leading by as many as 29 points, one area that was relatively close was on the boards. Orlando just edged San Antonio 24-22 on the glass. If the Nuggets can get a healthy edge in rebounds, it could be the deciding factor of the game. 
 
Avoiding a slow start 
 
One unfortunate byproduct of the Nuggets’ canceled game is their opponents already have one game and a win in their pockets. They’ve had an opportunity to work through any early jitters and build confidence. Despite the circumstances, Denver can ill-afford a slow start against Orlando. 
 
There’s been plenty of talk about familiarity and chemistry during minicamp and it is key Fernandez’s team utilizes those aspects early in Sunday’s game. 

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