The schedule-makers did the Magic no favors for this one. Already difficult for opposing players to compete in Denver's high altitude, that is compounded on Saturday by the fact that the Magic will be playing there on the second night of a back-to-back.
Oh, and for the Nuggets, it will be the final game of a six-game homestand, meaning they haven't traveled since October.
But the Magic did themselves a favor by routing the Suns in the second half of a 128-112 win, allowing their starters to rest in the fourth and save their legs for the 7-5 Nuggets.
The Magic, on the second game of a four-game West Coast swing, face a Denver team that is coming off a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday behind Emmaunel Mudiay's 21 points off the bench. Led by Nikola Jokic, exceptionally talented on the offensive end but by no means a rim protector on the defensive side, the Nuggets are middle of the pack in both offensive efficiency at 104.6 points per 100 possessions and defensive efficiency at 104.2 points allowed per 100 possessions.
The Magic kicked off their West Coast trip with a win over the Suns, crucial in that Orlando's next three opponents are far superior to Phoenix. Despite a rough shooting night from the free throw line and some careless play in regard to turnovers, the Magic came out strong in the third quarter (this has been something of a pattern all season) and shored up their defense in the second half to earn the win.
Winning in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back with Elfrid Payton's playing through hamstring soreness against a well-rested Nuggets team won't be easy. But if the Magic can steal a win they will head to Golden State on Monday already assured at worst a split of the four-game road trip.
Magic: Elfrid Payton, Terrence Ross, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
Nuggets: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Wilson Chandler, Paul Milsap, Nikola Jokic