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Will Barton, Reserves Spark Road Victory Over Orlando
ORLANDO – Slowly but steadily, Will Barton has grown into arguably the Nuggets’ most indispensable player during this stretch of the season when the team is playing without two of its best players.
He showed why on Friday night in Orlando.
Barton led a Nuggets offensive onslaught, as he and a host of reserves powered the team to a 103-89 win over the Magic at Amway Center. The Nuggets simply pulled away in the second half, outscoring Orlando 54-41 to take a one-point halftime lead and turn it into a comfortable road victory. And that road victory snapped a four-game road losing streak.
"He played 43 minutes tonight,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “And in that second half he played all but 19 seconds, I believe. Will is probably the only guy on this team that could play 48 minutes every night. And he loves that opportunity, he cherishes that opportunity. He can score, he can make plays for people, and when he defends and rebounds he takes his game to another level.”
Barton took it to that level.
The win was built on taking the good parts of the recent losses on this road trip and combining them with rebuilt areas that had previously been concerns. And that list started with defense. The Nuggets clamped down more and more as the game wore on. Orlando’s guards did not live in the Nuggets’ paint all night. And because they didn’t, it made scoring much more difficult, which is a large reason why the Nuggets held the Magic to 39.8 percent shooting from the field.
"We did get better throughout the game,” Kenneth Faried said. “The second half, especially when we locked-in more. … We needed to come in with that focus – ‘Hey, do not do what we did in these last couple of road games. Let’s do what we did at home instead and let’s blow this game open.’ That’s what we did tonight.”
The reserves got the Nuggets on the right track in the second quarter. Barton and three other players – Malik Beasley, Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay – played the entire second quarter. Trey Lyles nearly did. The quintet brought the Nuggets all the way back from a 13-point deficit to that halftime lead.
Beasley’s energy on defense was a spark. He also played his most composed, best game as a professional overall. He was not sped up on offense. He made the right reads and stepped into his shots with confidence. Beasley (nine points), Mudiay (11 points) and Faried (nine points) scored 29 of the Nuggets’ 35 points in the period.
In the second half, the Nuggets starters took it from there.
The third quarter was theirs. Gary Harris scored 10 points in the period, Wilson Chandler had nine in the period, and the Nuggets made 13-of-20 shots from the field to outscore Orlando 32-22 and open up an 11-point lead going into the fourth.
In the fourth, the Nuggets pushed the lead to as many as 17 points before settling in for the 14-point win.
Faried led the Nuggets with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Will Barton had 19 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. Mudiay finished with 18 points, five rebounds and five assists. The Nuggets improved to 14-11 with the victory.
"We talked before the game, our longest losing streak has been two games,” Malone said. “We did not want to make it three games tonight. This was an important game for us to get, and we went out there and took care of business. So happy for our guys, and now it continues on a very long and challenging road trip.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter