It could have been Andre Miller or Ty Lawson or Arron Afflalo racing down the court. The one thing that seemed sure was that the Magic were sucking wind behind him. The Nuggets are a fast break team and they were trying to get up and down the floor all game. The Magic though might have had one too many hurdles to overcome.
Each trip up and down the floor seemed to put more of a road block in front of them. Meanwhile Nuggets guards had a field day, throwing the ball toward the rim for JaVale McGee. Life can be fun when you have super talented athlete with insanely long arms to throw the ball toward with no one in the paint that can stop him from soaring above the rim.
Orlando had that…
Instead, McGee was soaring with no contest. Him and Kenneth Faried were darting backdoor and taking advantage of an unfocused and exhausted Magic team. Stan Van Gundy may not have been willing to use it as an excuse, but you could see guys clearly dragging once again.
The want and effort was there once again. But as frustration grew and exhaustion wore on, you could see focus wane and the Magic fall further and further into the abyss.
Denver outsocred Orlando 57-30 in the second half as Orlando could not get its shots to fall and keep any positive feeling or momentum. Perhaps losing Jameer Nelson to a calf contusion just two minutes into the game sucked out that extra gear or fight that the team might have had. Perhaps playing a back to back in Salt Lake City and Denver just did too much to a team that has to rely on key players too much.
Either way, the scoreboard said Nuggets 101, Magic 74.
The trouble started early with Jameer Nelson banging knees with Kenneth Faried and suffering a calf contusion. He went to the floor and was gone for the game. But Orlando hung around. More than that, the Magic kept fighting.
Orlando had the game tied at 44 and trailed by 11 early in the fourth quarter. Things simply unraveled late.
The Magic were struggling to get shots to fall all game. They missed their first seven 3-pointers, many of them good open looks. Orlando shot 37.3 percent for the game and hit only six of 23 3-pointers. Many of them coming in a 25-point second quarter, the only quarter Orlando scored more than 20 points.
It was not the awful offensive performances Orlando had put in past games this season. For whatever reason something just was not clicking. And it got worse the more desperate the team got.
The lack of offense made the Magic’s defensive shortcomings that much more apparent. The Nuggets shot better than 50 percent and were able to come up with the big shots they needed to break Magic runs. And certainly, in the end, their ability to run and get out on the break and simply out work a tired and discouraged team.
This team needs to find a recommitment to defense before the Playoffs if it wants to stand a chance. The offense, especially without Nelson in the game, bogs down too much and the Pacers are going to be a stern defensive challenge for a team that is simply trying to outscore its opponents.
The score was not reflective of how this team played for most of the night, but it was clear in the fourth quarter that the focus was gone. Orlando got what it deserved for it.
The Magic spent too much of the fourth quarter turning their heads trying to catch up to a team that was on the attack. And without the 3-pointers falling or the offense flowing, the Magic did not stand a chance.
Orlando looked simply out of sync on both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter. And, for sure, without Dwight Howard the Magic need complete focus to succeed.