What to Watch for in Nuggets Game in Orlando

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

ORLANDO – There are times in a season when the emphasis is turned more inward than on the upcoming opponent.

The Nuggets are in that space right now, as they go into Orlando on Friday night looking to stop a four-game road losing streak.

“I’m more worried about us, our mindset and our approach than I really am about Orlando and what they are going to do,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “Because right now I think everything that we’re struggling with is us, not necessarily Orlando Magic or New Orleans or whatever it is. I just want to make sure we come with the right mindset (Friday) night.”

The Nuggets go into the game with a 13-11 record overall, sixth in the Western Conference. So, they continue to occupy a spot among the top eight in the conference as they have the majority of the season. Meanwhile, Orlando has struggled of late, losing 11 of their last 14 games.

Getting in a groove on the road starts with a victory. Here are some Nuggets keys to tonight’s game against the Magic…

Continue to get production out of three-guard lineups: The Nuggets played a ton of three-guard lineups on Wednesday in their game at New Orleans. And they got good return on them, especially offensively. Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Will Barton combined for 54 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds. Also, Emmanuel Mudiay had 17 points off the bench and Malik Beasley finished with eight points in addition to inspired play on the defensive end. “For me, when you can put three guys out there that can hopefully on offense dribble-drive create for themselves and create for others, and then hopefully defensively contain…I like the three-guard lineup,” Malone said. “I think it gives us a different look on both ends of the floor.”

Contain dribble penetration: The Orlando Magic is sixth in the NBA in drives per game, with 47.0, and Jonathon Simmons leads the team in drives per game with 10.8. Their guards, Elfrid Payton, D.J. Augustin and Simmons, are constantly probing and forcing the issue to get into the paint and to the rim. Without injured guards Evan Fournier and Terrance Ross, some of Orlando’s persistent driving will take a bit of a hit, but it won’t deter them from repeatedly trying. Stopping dribble penetration has been the biggest issue for the Nuggets on defense on this road trip. Tonight will be another test.

Keep taking care of the ball: Lost in the first two road losses on this trip has been a drastic improvement in one area – turnovers. The Nuggets are not beating themselves in that respect, averaging just 8.0 turnovers per game on the road trip so far. Gary Harris and Will Barton have been particularly good at taking care of the ball, averaging a combined 8.0 assists and just 1.0 turnovers.

INJURY REPORT: The Nuggets will be without center Nikola Jokić (ankle) and forward Paul Millsap (wrist).

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.