Nuggets 110-114 Magic: Three takeaways
The Nuggets almost rallied from 21 down but couldn’t complete the comeback in a 114-110 loss to Orlando in their final scrimmage game.
Jamal Murray made his debut in Orlando and finished with a game-high 23 points to go along with four rebounds and four dimes. Gary Clark led Orlando with 17 points.
Here are the takeaways from the Nuggets’ loss:
Poor three-point defense and turnovers hurt Denver
The Magic shot 48.6 percent from three and converted Denver’s 21 turnovers into 27 points. That is a recipe for disaster and a wakeup call for the Nuggets, a team with aspirations of championship contention this season.
Yes, this was an exhibition and the Nuggets were missing several key members of their rotation, including Monte Morris and Gary Harris. Still, to put things into perspective, Denver allowed Orlando, the 25th ranked team in three-pointers made per game, to convert almost half of their 37 attempts from downtown.
It will be interesting to see if the inclusion of Morris, a steady hand in facilitating, and Harris, one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, can make a difference. For now, both of those areas will likely be points of emphasis for coach Michael Malone and his staff.
"I have a lot of concerns. Obviously, there's no need to overreact, we've been playing with some mismatch units, guys not in their natural positions, but the turnovers are still an issue," Malone said. "We're beating ourselves every night, we don't value the ball."
He added, "We have some time between now and our first seeding game in Miami. We'll use these eight seeding games to continue to improve because we have a lot of areas [that need] improvement."
The Nuggets have a lot of areas that need fine-tuning before the season restarts on Aug. 1. Starting point-guard play isn’t one of them.
Jamal Murray was assertive in his first and only scrimmage appearance from the second he touched the rock, reeling in 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting – including knocking down three from downtown in the first half. Scoring wasn’t the only area Murray had an impact, he was also effective in finding teammates and making some key defensive plays.
"I thought Jamal was terrific tonight, his energy and effort on both sides of the floor. He was locked in on defense." Malone said."I could tell he was really focused. It was his first scrimmage so I think he was really anticipating [it] and excited to play."
Murray’s swagger was evident early in the third where he caught James Ennis III on a filthy step back that sent the Magic guard into another stratosphere. Murray was confident, incisive throughout the night and if that play carries into the seeding and playoff games, the Nuggets could turn some heads in the postseason.
MPJ in January form
One player who might have benefited from the four-month hiatus is Michael Porter Jr. The Nuggets rookie was a terror for Orlando on both sides of the floor, tallying 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting while adding seven boards and a block in just 20 minutes.
Porter Jr.’s showing against the Magic was reminiscent of how he played in January, where he broke out to earn a bigger role in the Nuggets rotation. Once he suffered an ankle injury in February, his numbers dipped as he averaged 4.2 points on 32 percent shooting in March.
"I had that ankle injury so it was good to heal that up and I'm feeling great," Porter Jr. said after the game. "It's a blessing."
While it is just one scrimmage, Porter Jr.’s performance was one of the bright spots for the Nuggets against the Magic.