Preview: Denver Nuggets open homestand vs. Magic

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyrosNBA

It would be hard to script a better opening week for Aaron Gordon and the Nuggets following the trade deadline.

With three wins over the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, and LA Clippers, the Nuggets continue to rise up the standings as their new addition continues to fit in. Gordon had his best game as a Nugget in LA Thursday, posting 14 points, six rebounds, and six assists while providing solid defense against Kawhi Leonard.

MORE: Takeaways from win over Clippers

Denver (30-18) now has a prime opportunity to continue integrating Gordon and rack up wins, beginning with a game against the Orlando Magic Sunday, the first of five-straight games at Ball Arena.

Orlando (17-31) has actually won two games in a row, using team efforts to scrape out wins. Wendell Carter Jr. has impressed during his initial run with Orlando, which includes a 21-point, 12-rebound performance against the New Orleans Pelicans Thursday.

Denver has won the past nine games between these two teams, while the all-time series is tied at 32 wins apiece.

Projected starters: Jamal Murray, Will Barton III, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokić

Injury report:

MONTE MORRIS – LEFT QUADRICEPS STRAIN. QUESTIONABLE.

TUNE-IN: 8 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and NBATV, 92.5FM

Key matchup: Nikola Jokić vs. Wendell Carter Jr.

Jokić is coming off one of his more ordinary performances of the season, posting 14 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists against the Clippers.

As Denver’s new starting lineup continues to dominate teams, Jokić has been able to pick his spots more and conserve energy on the offensive end of the floor. The Serbian big man has scored less than 22 points in each of the three games since Gordon joined the team.

Meanwhile, Carter Jr. continues to earn more minutes in Orlando’s rotation, playing 31 in Thursday’s victory in New Orleans. Although Carter Jr. has come off the bench in his first three games with the Magic, he should see more playing time Sunday as Orlando hopes to contain Jokić.

The battle in the mid-range

For those who enjoy a more throwback style of play on offense, Sunday’s matchup may just be for you.

The Magic offense is built around the mid-range, as they rank first in the percentage of shot attempts coming from that area of the floor (39.7 percent). Although Denver has a more even shot chart, the Nuggets still attempt plenty of shots from the mid-range, ranking ninth in shot attempts coming from that area of the floor.

However, where Denver will have an advantage in this battle is in both teams’ conversion rates.

Orlando has only shot 39.9 percent in the mid-range this season, which places them 24th in the league. On the other end, Denver has hit 45.8 percent from the mid-range, which is the fourth-best percentage in the league.

With players such as Gordon and Evan Fournier no longer on the Magic, Denver should have the advantage attacking in the mid-range on Sunday.

Fire away from beyond the arc

Although Denver’s offense isn’t built around attacking from the 3-point line, Sunday’s matchup against Orlando presents an opportunity to do so.

Because the Magic are focused on limiting attempts around the rim, Orlando is vulnerable from beyond the arc, as 39.4 percent of opponent shot attempts have come from downtown against Orlando, which is the fifth-highest percentage in the league.

Denver ranks slightly below league average in terms of the frequency of shot attempts coming from beyond the arc, but the Nuggets continue to make the most of their attempts from downtown. Denver ranks sixth in the league (in non-garbage time minutes) at 39.2 percent shooting on 3-pointers this season.

If the Nuggets catch fire early Sunday, they will likely be looking at their fifth-consecutive victory.

Numbers as of Friday, April 2.

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