The Denver Nuggets used a blistering scoring run in the second period Sunday to take command over the Orlando Magic, cruising to a 119-100 victory to end their three-game skid in emphatic fashion. Orlando, coming off an upset of the title-contending Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night, played with neither the intensity nor the focus required to compete, and it showed in one of its more embarrassing losses of the season.
Danilo Gallinari stirred Denver's drink, finishing with a career-best 40 points to go with seven rebounds and four assists. Former Magic star Jameer Nelson came of the bench to ignite the Nuggets' second unit, needing just 16 minutes to tally 15 points and five assists.
Nik Vučević scored an efficient 20 points and soundly outplayed Jusuf Nurkić, his Denver counterpart. His solid play was among the few highlights for an unimaginative and sloppy Orlando offense, which committed 19 turnovers. Making his first start of the season, Andrew Nicholson tallied 13 points--just one shy of his season-high--and certainly would have had more had foul trouble not limited him to 22 minutes. Victor Oladipo led Orlando with 21, but 11 of those came in the fourth quarter after Denver coach Melvin Hunt had already called off the proverbial dogs.
Gallinari set the tone early by driving to the rim off pick-and-rolls, initiating contact and earning trips to the foul line. No one coach James Borrego tasked with covering the six-year veteran met the challenge; Gallinari got good looks or drew fouls almost at will.
Nelson scored eight straight points in the final 80 seconds of the first quarter to give his newest team a three-point edge over his former one. Denver's run continued into the second period as Orlando kept coughing up the ball or otherwise failing to generate efficient shot attempts. A Gallinari triple at the 7:16 mark of the second capped a 28-8 Denver run to give the visitors a 15-point advantage.
With just 10 players available, Borrego didn't have many options when it came to subbing. He searched for a combination of guys who could defend and play with energy, and it wasn't until he went comically small with four guards surrounding Vucevic at center that the Magic showed some signs of life. With that forward-less lineup, Orlando went on a 16-9 run to finish the half down just 18.
But whatever lightning Borrego's tiny lineup bottled up in the waning moments of the half escaped in the locker room: Gallinari and the Nuggets continued their onslaught in the second half. Even after pulling his regular rotation players, Hunt allowed Gallinari to remain in the game so he could pursue a new career-best scoring total. And with a wide-open triple at the 8:53 mark of the fourth, Gallinari did just that.
Orlando won the fourth quarter to make the final score look more respectable than it ought to. The Nuggets crushed Orlando on the glass, from beyond the arc, in foul-drawing, and in forcing turnovers. For a team already out of playoff contention to so thoroughly outplay the Magic in their own building counts as a rank embarrassment, even accounting for how shorthanded the hosts were.