ORLANDO, Fla. — It was a definite boost.
It sure blew the roof off of the Amway Center.
Jameer Nelson’s 3-point jumper as time expired not only lifted the Orlando Magic 85-82 in dramatic fashion, but it also gave them a playoff-caliber victory against the Denver Nuggets Friday night.
While the Magic (44-26) still needs to work out certain kinks, this was a statement win. Not one Orlando player stood out offensively on the stat sheet. Instead, all five starters shared the wealth.
Dwight Howard scored 16, Hedo Turkoglu had 15 and Brandon Bass, Jason Richardson and Nelson each contributed 13. Howard’s team high in points marked the lowest mark for a Magic leading scorer this season. But that did not matter
Part of this could be credited to Denver’s (41-28) stellar defense, which kept the Magic’s shooting down to 37 percent. It also showed the balance Orlando can accomplish on the offensive side without a full roster. Without J.J. Redick and Gilbert Arenas —who sat out with a sore left knee— in the lineup, the Magic were easily missing a duo that combined to average 18.2 points per game. Orlando still found a way to make due under those circumstances.
The Magic outrebounded Denver by a 51-47 margin and did so on both sides of the ball. Howard had a game high 18 (6 offensive and 12 defensive). They were able to score 12 second chance points.
Earlier in the day, Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said his team would need to play their best game of the year to beat a Nuggets squad that is 9-3 since trading Carmello Anthony and Chauncey Billups.
That is exactly what they did.
Defensively, the Magic held the Nuggets to their lowest score since Nov. 18 at Portland when they had 83.
“You have to take everything away from the game,” said Van Gundy following Orlando’s victory. “We made some mistakes, but I thought our guys made a hell of an effort today. All nine guys that played made a great effort and did everything we could.”
Even though Wilson Chandler scored a game high 20 points and made 50 percent of his shots, the Nuggets as a whole shot 28 of 78, far below the team’s average (49.4 percent) from the field. The Magic held Denver below their season average in many offensive categories, including just six successful 3-pointers in the contest.
The Nuggets scored 36 points in the paint but Howard and company combined to block 10 shots.
After concluding a 5-game road trip that resulted in a 3-2 record, the Magic snapped a two-game home losing streak.
Other than turning the ball over 18 times, another troubled area for Orlando continues to come from the free throw line. Overall, the Magic made 20 of 31, but missed five in the fourth quarter that could have been costly. Turkoglu’s two misses took place with under 15 seconds to go in the game and with Orlando leading by just two points.
Following a slow start, the Magic turned it up, quite the opposite of other games where they are dependent on making a late push. Even with the off shooting night, nobody could question their effort and sometimes that’s all it takes.