Returning home after a 3-3 road trip, the Orlando Magic welcomed the Denver Nuggets to the Amway Center for their yearly visit. After being dominated in Denver to start the road trip, the Magic fought hard, falling in overtime 124-118.
Looking to avenge their drubbing in Denver a week and a half ago, the Magic once again got off to a slow start against on the Western Conference’s best. Denver quickly jumped out to a 12 point lead behind a pair of three-pointers from Paul Millsap, easy looks at the basket for Jamal Murray. The lead was short lived, however, with Aaron Gordon getting involved in a big way, knocking down a set of threes en route to 13 first quarter points.
Defensively the Magic struggled with Denver’s movement, and their ability to run the pick-and-roll with Nikola Jokic as both a ball handler, and the screen setter. Multiple times the defense lagged off to help, leaving players open for clean looks beyond the arc. Despite that, the Magic found themselves down just three, 31-28, after one.
Turning to their inconsistent second unit, the Magic got some good minutes out of the second unit, spearheaded by Jonathan Isaac. The second-year man showed off some of his offensive potential, knocking down a three, taking the ball to the hole off the dribble, and posting up a smaller defender for his buckets. Isaac’s front court running mate, Mo Bamba, looked more comfortable as well, knocking down a set of buckets, including two threes.
Orlando’s second unit continued to keep them in the game as the starters trickled back in. Gordon, and Nikola Vucevic, continued to get theirs, combining for 30 of the Magic’s 54 in the half. Their ball movement was strong as well, finishing with 15 assists on 23 makes, but they did not register a free throw attempt in the half. The Magic trailed by two, 56-54, at the half.
Out of the half, the Magic came out scorching hot from three, knocking down 8-11 from beyond the arc, including four from Evan Fournier. Their hot shooting helped them jump on the Nuggets to their biggest lead of the game at six. Denver answered quickly, finishing the quarter on a 15-7 run to grab the lead back by two, 88-86.
The Magic’s defense struggled to contain Murray, who continued to half his best game in Orlando of his career, notching 24 through three. Their inability to get to the free throw lone also hampered them, despite the strong shooting from beyond the arc, allowing the Nuggets to hang in the game.
Once again, the Magic took a punch across the jaw from the Nuggets to start the fourth, seeing their lead swell back to six after a pair of free throws from Trey Lyles. As they had other times throughout the contest, the Magic answered with a big counter of their own, sprinting out to a quick 9-2 run to regain the lead. In that stretch, Jonathan Isaac took the teams first two free throws of the game at the 9:13 mark, keeping the Magic from making history as the first team to never attempt a free throw in a game.
As Denver continued to march to the free throw line, the Magic became increasingly frustrated with the officiating, with players egging the fans on to boo after what they felt were poor calls. As legs began to grow heavy, shots began to come up short for the Magic, as the defense also saw lapses come back to bite them.
Down three, the Magic began forcing the issue, tossing up poor three-pointer after poor three-pointer. Terrence Ross missed a pair, with Gordon forcing one of his own, but the Magic’s defense stepped up with crucial stops to give them a chance to tie with nine seconds to play. Coming off a pin down screen from Nikola Vucevic, Ross got a wide open three pointer to tie the game at 112 with 6.1 seconds left. Murray, who had killed the Magic all night, missed a baseline jumper to send the game into overtime.
Into overtime, the legs continued to look tired for the Magic, as shots came up short, and the offense struggled to find quality looks. Fournier, who helped keep the Magic in the game in the second half, fouled out after fighting for post position with Nikola Jokic. Fournier was also assessed his second technical foul of the night, giving the Nuggets a four point possession after Murray knocked down a corner three.
The lead swelled back to seven for the Nuggets, all but ending the Magic’s chances for a big win. The Magic cut it down to three, but a poor reach from Vucevic put Murray at the line, and he knocked down the pair, pushing the Denver lead to five once again. Murray’s six points in overtime led Denver to the win.