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Tonight's Game: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets

2008/2009 NBA Regular Season
Orlando Magic 20th anniversary logo
Denver Nuggets alternate logo
32-8 27-13
January 17th, 2009
Pepsi Center
9:00 PM
FSN Florida HD
Probable starters:
Jameer Nelson PG Chauncey Billups
Courtney Lee SG J.R. Smith
Hedo Turkoglu SF Dahntay Jones
Rashard Lewis PF Kenyon Martin
Dwight Howard C Nenê

One night after playing a fast-paced game against the best team in the Western Conference, the Orlando Magic must take on the Denver Nuggets, another fast-paced team, which happens to be second in the West, in the thin air of Denver, Colorado. But if there's any team in the NBA that's up to the task, it's the Magic, whose 16-5 road record is tops in the league.

Although the Nuggets aren't among the league's elite teams, they are still quite formidable. Chauncey Billups has had his way with Jameer Nelson, and will get to exploit that matchup again tonight. Meanwhile, Nenê is having a monstrous year in the pivot with per-game averages of 14.9 points and 7.9 boards on 61.6% shooting. Dwight Howard will really have his hands full defensively. In fact, all the Magic players will. Denver turns the ball over on 16.3% of its possessions and only rebounds 25.9% of its own misses, but gets to the foul line at a better rate than any other team in the league. Billups is especially adept at drawing fouls, and even benefitted from a controversial foul call in a win over Dallas earlier this week when he kicked Jason Terry while shooting; the officials whistled Terry for the foul. If the Magic are tired--and they probably will be after last night's emotional win--they could find themselves hacking on defense, and giving up free points as a result. That's not good.

A win tonight would be huge for the Magic, giving them 33 wins at the halfway point of the season, but a loss here wouldn't surprise me, given Denver's skill and well-restedness. As long as they give a good effort, I won't mind if their shots come up a bit short tonight.

Tip's at 9 on FSN Florida. Thank you, NBA schedule-makers. Go Magic, and don't let J.R. Smith get hot.