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Nuggets 104, Magic 101: Orlando Puts up Fight Without Dwight Howard, but Denver Prevails

April 1, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3) shoots as Orlando Magic power forward Glen Davis (11) defends during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
April 1, 2012; Orlando FL, USA; Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson (3) shoots as Orlando Magic power forward Glen Davis (11) defends during the first half at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The Denver Nuggets came into Sunday night's game against the Orlando Magic desperately needing a win to stay in contention for the final playoff spot in the tightly-packed Western Conference. Meantime, the Magic went into the game without All-Star Center Dwight Howard, because of a sore back suffered Friday night against Dallas. It was only the third time Howard has missed a game in his career because of injury. Glen Davis acquitted himself well starting in Howard's place, scoring 18 points with a career-high 16 rebounds, including 9 on the offensive side. Jameer Nelson, continuing his strong play, scored 22 of his season-high 27 points in the second half. Ryan Anderson added 20 points and 9 boards, but had to leave the game with 23 seconds remaining with what appeared to be an ankle injury. It wasn't enough though, as the Nuggets, led by strong backcourt play from Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo who combined for 47 points, were able to hold off the Magic 104-101.

Denver looked to be in control of the game as they led 99-90 with 1:42 remaining, but the Magic scored 7 points in a row to come within 99-97 with 45 seconds remaining, as J.J. Redick scored 5 of those points and assisted to Davis on the other two points. With the score 103-101 Denver, Andre Miller was fouled with 3 seconds remaining. He split the free throws, giving the Magic a chance to tie the game with a three-pointer. The Magic had no timeouts, though. Jason Richardson's last-second long three-pointer missed, and the officials did not call a foul on the play even though it appeared there may have been contact on Richardson that caused him to fall while attempting the three.

Orlando allowed a season-high field goal percentage by an opponent, as Denver shot 55.6%, while the Magic could only shoot 42%. That included a woeful 8 of 32 from three point range, with Denver making 8 of 19 from long range. This was the ninth time this season the Magic have not outscored the opposition from three-point range, and all nine times the Magic have lost. The Magic were able to keep their turnovers down, as they were charged with 12 total turnovers compared to 17 for Denver, but the Nuggets' excellent shooting made up for their turnovers.

Team Pace Efficiency eFG% FT Rate OReb% TO Rate
Nuggets 89.7 116.0 61.1% 22.2 23.3 19.0
Magic 89.7 112.6 46.6% 21.6 36.7 13.4
Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
The Magic started out slowly, as the Nuggets led after one quarter 27-19. Denver shot a blistering 69% after one, compared to 38% for the Magic. Speedy point guard Lawson led the good start for the Nuggets, scoring 11 first quarter points on 4 of 4 shooting.

Denver increased their lead in the second quarter, with their largest lead of the game 37-25 at the 8:04 point after a Corey Brewer layup. The Magic then came alive, going on a 14-2 run to tie the game at 39-39 after a Richardson jumper. The Nuggets then scored 9 of the last 12 points of the quarter to go into the half with a 48-42 lead. Lawson had 13 points to lead the Nuggets in the first half, while Davis had 11 points and 6 rebounds to lead the Magic.

The Magic started the third quarter strong, outscoring the Nuggets 12-3 to open the quarter and took their first lead since early in the game 54-51. Anderson and Hedo Turkoglu each made three-pointers during that span. Trailing 62-57 halfway through the quarter, the Magic went on a 10-2 run to regain the lead 67-64. The Nuggets outscored the Magic 12-7 to end the third to lead going into the fourth 76-74. Nelson scored 14 points in the third.

The Magic never would regain the lead in the final frame. Denver led 93-90 after the Magic's Davis split two free throws with 4:48 remaining. The Magic would then go scoreless for the next 3:06 as Denver increased their lead to 99-90 before the Magic made their final run, only to fall short.

This was the Magic's third loss in a row, dropping their record to 32-21, with their hold on the third spot in the Eastern Conference growing more and more tenuous. Both Indiana and Boston won Sunday, which puts the Pacers (31-21) only 1/2 game behind the Magic, and the Celtics (30-22) only 1 1/2 games behind the Magic for the third spot.

Other game notes:

-The Magic's Jason Richardson continues to struggle, as he scored just 6 points on 3 of 12 shooting, including 0 for 6 on threes, in 32 minutes.

-Hedo Turkoglu added 11 points on 4 of 10 shooting, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals and 2 turnovers.

-The Denver reserves outscored the Magic reserves 43-19, with power forward Al Harrington scoring 18 points, and point guard Andre Miller adding 15 points and 5 assists. Redick scored 15 of the Magic's 19 bench points.

-The Magic enjoyed a big 18-7 advantage in offensive rebounding which allowed them to attempt 16 more shot attempts than the Nuggets. The Nuggets still outscored the Magic 88-82 from the field thanks to their strong shooting.

-This was only the tenth time in the Stan Van Gundy era that an opposing team has shot better than 55% from the field against the Magic. Not surprisingly, the Magic have lost all those games.

-The 27 points from Nelson was his highest scoring game since November of 2009, when he scored 30 against Toronto.