Denver Nuggets 119, Orlando Magic 109: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets overcame a nearly disastrous first half against the Magic to secure a 119-109 win at Ball Arena.

Orlando entered the game with just eight available players, three of which were dealing with aliments. Still, the visitors gave Denver all it could handle in the opening 24 minutes. The Nuggets’ struggles on defense in the first half, allowing the visitors to shoot 56.5 percent, and turnovers (nine) would prove costly as the Magic would enter the break with a 65-47 lead.

The team would respond in the second half as they contained Orlando to just 44 points on 37.2 percent shooting.

Aaron Gordon had an impressive game against his former team, dropping 24 points and seven boards on 10 of 13 shooting. Nikola Jokić almost had another triple-double, posting 17 points, 16 assists, and nine boards. The Nuggets saw all of their starters finish the night in double-digit scoring.

The Magic were led by Chuma Okeke, who had 19 points, seven rebounds, and five assists. Former Nugget R.J. Hampton had 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists.

Denver now continues its five-game homestand with a visit by the Pistons Tuesday (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

AG picks up the scoring slack

With several of the Nuggets’ starters getting off to a slow start offensively, Gordon got going early as he put up the team’s first 12 points. It was an assertive performance from a player who has looked to fit in since his arrival just under a week ago.

Gordon would finish the night with his highest tally as a Nugget and continued to make an impact on the other end of the floor. It was his block in the fourth quarter against Wendell Carter that prevented the Magic from regaining the lead with just 3:52 remaining.

"He's a gamer, he's going to play every night. We're 4-0 since the trade went down and you can see Aaron has been phenomenal all four games," Nuggets head coach Michael Malone said. "You just kind of see him getting more and more comfortable as he's learning to play with, and off, of his teammates."

"He provides so much on both ends of the court and that's why you have to give up a Gary Harris and a young asset like R.J. Hampton, because guys like Aaron Gordon, there's just not many of them out there. We're thrilled that he's here with us and we're playing well with him and he's only going to get better.” 

An incredible third quarter

The Nuggets quickly opened out of the break with a 10-2 run and outscored the Magic 38-21 in the third quarter. Nikola Jokić was the offensive spark for the home team during that stretch.

The Nuggets’ all-world center dropped an unbelievable eight assists, with no turnovers, to rally his teammates. Jamal Murray and Gordon were the benefactors as two men combined for 19. Murray provided an exclamation mark as he received a long pass from Jokić to pull off an incredible reverse slam.

Murray scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half, shooting 6 of 12 in the final 24 minutes.

Second-half defense steps up

The Nuggets played one of the worst first halves of the season and it would take a strong defensive effort in the second half to get back into the contest. Denver, in short, was dominant in that area in the final 24 minutes.

The team held its opponents to just 37.2 percent shooting in the second half, including only allowing four three-pointers in that stretch. The Nuggets also forced the Magic into eight turnovers, turning those giveaways into 12 points. It was a much-needed response after the home team’s slow start. Malone’s team also gathered four steals and four blocks in the second half.

"It's amazing. We came back and we didn't just let the game go by the motions; we were fighting," Jokić said. "I think it was a 10-2 run in the first two minutes of the game, or something like that. In the second half, they didn't really score that much, I think 44. That's an amazing number." 

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