Your seventh-seeded Orlando Magic are in Denver on Friday for a date with the Nuggets, two teams whose seasons to date have looked like polar opposites.
As we know, the Magic came out flat across the first few weeks, stumbling to a 2-6 record and looking like lottery locks. Since then, however, they’ve seemingly turned a corner, emerging as one of the league’s most effective offenses over this recent stretch and rising to seventh overall in the Eastern Conference standings. Even when things are going poorly at the moment it still looks okay; the team’s last gasp loss to the conference-leading Raptors in their previous start is basically a textbook example of a moral victory (even though we don’t do those anymore).
Denver are a contrasting study. After Jamal Murray dropped 48 against Boston the Nuggets found themselves at the top of the Western Conference standings with a 9-1 record. Their offense was on fire and the defense clicking, and center Nikola Jokic looked like a legitimate top-ten player and nightly triple-double threat.
Then the wheels fell off.
In the eight games since, the Nuggets have gone 2-6, with those wins coming at the expense of two teams -- Atlanta and Minnesota -- who are both running second last in their respective conferences. They’re struggling to figure out their starting unit, having some difficulty with injuries, and can’t seem to get the offense and defense both working at the same time. It’s been a rough stretch.
Still, Orlando would do well to disregard recent form. It’s been two and a half years since the Magic have toppled the Nuggets, and it would take a brave NBA pundit to suggest that our Floridians are the better team. Still, as the first stop on what has the potential to be a brutal six-game road trip it’s important that the team establish some momentum.
The match-up features some intriguing considerations to keep an eye on as play unfolds, such as:
- Can Nikola Vucevic, your reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, handle Jokic’s offensive wizardry?
- How BIG will the Magic go with their lineup?
- Will D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier be able to stand up defensively against the score-first backcourt of Jamal Murray and Gary Harris?
- Are the Magic going to be able to keep the Nuggets off the glass, particularly at the offensive end where they’re among the best in the league?
As always, be sure to join us in the Game Thread and dive into the discussion!