Nuggets Run Magic Off the Court in Second Half

facebooktwitterreddit

After playing a pretty good first half on the road in Denver against the Nuggets, the Magic were dominated in the second half. Orlando led by 3 at the half but was out-scored 65-44 in the second half. Matt Barnes had a huge game for the Magic, putting up 28 points and grabbing 9 rebounds but Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups combined to score 51 points in Denver’s 115-97 victory.

Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy’s explanation for the loss was simple.

"“We just turned the ball over and we couldn’t find any offense.”"

The Magic started the game with good energy. Orlando shot just 36% compared to Denver’s 50%, but that energy (and three-point shooting) kept them in the lead for the majority of the quarter. Jameer Nelson had it going on early. He hit back-to-back three-pointers at the start of the quarter and then worked on getting his teammates involved. Nelson had 8 points, 3 assists and 0 turnovers. The Magic once again tried to establish Dwight Howard, but he never got into very good position and missed all five of his first quarter shots. He made up for it on the defensive end by doing a good job on defense, grabbing 4 rebounds and blocking 2 shots. Orlando’s old friend Chauncey Billups started the game by making a three-pointer and had 7 first quarter points. The Magic let the Nuggets get a few easy layups and that allowed the Nuggets to erase a six-point game and tie the game at 25 at the end of the quarter.

The first half of the game was very physical and Orlando used that to their advantage. They continued to frustrate Carmelo Anthony largely behind the aggressive defense of Matt Barnes. Anthony showed his frustration by slamming the ball and arguing a non-call after he was stripped by Barnes at the end of the half. Anthony was given a technical foul for his actions. Barnes also scored 11 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the half. In fact, he was probably the best player on the court in the first half. Dwight Howard played good defense and rebounded the ball well, but didn’t make his first field goal until there was 1:20 left in the first half. Orlando’s point guards had 12 points and 6 assists in the first half. Orlando fell behind 46-44, but went on an 8-1 run and ended the half with a 53-50 lead. The Magic had a lot of trouble scoring in their half-court offense and thrived on Denver’s turnovers.

The Magic started the second half about as badly as a team could. The Nuggets scored the first 12 points of the quarter, turning a 3-point deficit into a 9-point lead. Orlando’s offense continued to struggle and a Chauncey Billups 3-pointer extended Denver’s lead to 16 points at 81-65 just after Matt Barnes picked up his fifth foul. Orlando’s energy for the most part, disappeared – the Magic just looked gassed. They shot just 6-of-17 in the period while the Nuggets shot 11-of-19. The Nuggets had a 35-19 advantage in the quarter and led 85-72 after three quarters. Chauncey Billups had 12 points and 2 assists in the quarter.

In the fourth quarter, it was obvious that what little energy the Magic may have had left in the third quarter was gone. The Nuggets started the quarter on a 19-4 run to erase any doubt in the game. The Magic emptied the bench halfway through the quarter as the Nuggets ran away with a 115-97 win.

NBA

The Magic had a decent first half. They were just 19-of-43 from the field but made five three-pointers, 10 free throws and grabbed 20 rebounds. They also forced nine Denver turnovers and scored 12 points off of those turnovers. The Nuggets made the same amount of field goals as the Magic in the first half but took six less shots.

In the second half, Denver shot 24-of-40 from the field and made six three-pointers. They turned the ball over just five times and forced 11 Magic turnovers. The Magic, on the other hand, shot just 15-of-35 in the second half.

The Nuggets shot an effective field goal percentage of 62.3% and the Magic’s eFG % was 51.2%. It’s hard to beat a team shooting as well as the Nuggets did Wednesday night.

Orlando really couldn’t get anything going on offense and relied on hustle and Denver turnovers to keep them in the game during the first half, but the team was gassed in the second half and Denver took much better care of the ball.

On a positive note, Orlando actually did a good job on the offensive glass. They kept several possessions alive, mostly in the first half, with some good hustle.

Rashard Lewis just can’t get going. For the third straight game and the fifth time in seven games, Lewis attempted less than 10 field goals. When I took a look at Lewis’ numbers, there were several reasons for his dip in production and the acquisition of Vince Carter seemed to be a big reason for Lewis’ lack of shots, but Lewis has attempted just 25 shots over the past three games with Carter out. Lewis scored 6 points on 3-of-9 shooting and missed all three of his three-point attempts. He picked up four personal fouls in only 23 minutes. Lewis has to find a way to get out of his funk – he is averaging 14.5 points per game this season.

Jameer Nelson started off the game strong. He had 8 points, 3 assists and 0 turnovers in the first quarter but couldn’t get anything going after that. The only thing Nelson added to that stat line was two turnovers.

Van Gundy said that the Magic need those two to play well for the team to win.

"“If we can’t get Rashard and Jameer going, we’re going to struggle. It’s our key guys – guys that look you to. I’ve got to find a way to get them going offensively. If I don’t, we’re going to continue to struggle against good teams.”"

Dwight Howard did not have a good night. The Magic tried to establish Howard early and got him the ball often, but he missed his first five shots. He didn’t get good position in the lane and it cost him. He tried to attempt a couple of jumpers and they looked good going up, but they didn’t fall. Howard did play his usual good defense, blocking 3 shots and grabbing 13 rebounds. Howard had a good first half, turnover wise, but turned it over 4 times in the second half, giving him five for the game.

Matt Barnes, as he usually does, brought energy and effort. Early in the first quarter, you could hear Barnes telling his teammates, “Hey, gotta stay focused!” Barnes played excellent defense against Carmelo Anthony in the first half, frustrating the superstar so much that Anthony’s complaining drew him a technical foul. Barnes had by far his best offensive game of the season. He frequently drove to the basket and scored 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He also grabbed 9 rebounds and had 3 steals. Foul trouble forced him to exit the game in the third quarter and allowed Carmelo Anthony to score with relative ease.

Orlando’s bench played well. It gave the Magic 34 points led by Mickael Pietrus’ 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting. Pietrus has been shooting the ball very well lately. After the game, Van Gundy said that the bench was “good.”

Game Notes:

  • Orlando’s play-by-play David Steele threw out an interesting stat – teams that played Denver on the road on back-to-backs have won once in 20 games.
  • Ryan Anderson continues to impress on the glass, grabbing two more offensive rebounds tonight.
  • The Nuggets out-scored the Magic 34-32 in the paint.
  • Jason Williams had the worst +/- of the night at -21. Dwight Howard was -20.
  • Carmelo Anthony was +26

Next Up: The Magic get a much needed day off before going to Portland to play the Trail Blazers on Friday and then Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Monday.

Final Thought: That was an ugly second half, but the Nuggets are nearly impossible to beat on the second night of a back-to-back. Magic fans shouldn’t overreact to this loss.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)