Orlando Magic Grades: Denver Nuggets 91, Orlando Magic 87

Nikola Jokic and Nikola Vucevic battled head to head, but Jokic's shot making proved to be the difference. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nikola Jokic and Nikola Vucevic battled head to head, but Jokic's shot making proved to be the difference. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic brought the energy and had their chances to win, but poor late-game execution cost them against the Denver Nuggets in a tight game.

91. 73. 87. 38. Final

Nothing else matters in a close game but the result.  It does not matter how the Orlando Magic or any team gets there or the struggles that happened earlier. All that matters in the moment and the team’s ability to execute and finish their shots.

This is where the Magic are lacking most. It is where they were lacking in close losses to the Atlanta Hawks and the Toronto Raptors. The only thing keeping their record from looking sterling rather than allowing the team to remain mired in frustration.

The frustration continues as the Denver Nuggets made the plays and the Orlando Magic were left trying to find a good shot or get that lone bucket to fall that would change the team’s overall fortunes.

With the Magic trailing by one point and two minutes to play, their defense disrupted the Nuggets offense and forced them into a quick reset. Gary Harris rescued the ball and dribbled over to the 3-point line while Nikola Jokic crashed across the lane.

The ball got to Jokic with roughly two seconds left on the shot clock. That was only enough time for him to turn and fire off the wrong foot over Nikola Vucevic‘s defense. Sometimes good offense beats good defense.

And sometimes good offense cannot crack mediocre defense. On the other end, the Magic tried to respond by getting Jonathan Isaac an open look for three off penetration.

Jamal Murray answered with an off-balance floater and the Nuggets had enough to push across the finish line with a 91-87 win at the Amway Center on Saturday.

As the score would suggest, the Magic’s defense was again elite and more than good enough. The Orlando Magic learned its lessons from Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. They got back in transition and locked down the glass for the most part. They played with energy and crowded and closed down driving lanes.

As the score would suggest, the Magic’s offense continued to struggle. Their fast start quickly dissipated and the team settled in shooting 43.0 percent from the floor. The team was too sloppy with the ball — 15 turnovers — and unable to hit open shots consistently. Everything was a challenge.

The Magic’s defense had some strong moments, but they were ultimately sloppy on that end too. They committed 25 fouls, giving up 39 free throw attempts, including 15 in a tell-tale third quarter alone. The Magic got their deflection and block numbers up, but they were poor on this front.

It was the difference in the game with the Nuggets shooting only 37.0 percent from the floor. The Magic’s defense, even with the fouling, did enough to give themselves a chance to win. Orlando still has a potentially elite defense.

It just does not have the offense to match. They go too long with poor or sloppy execution and they continue to miss open shots.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in late-game situations. The Magic are seemingly hesitant to make their mark or get up a good shot. The struggles are creeping into their execution. At some point, the Magic have to break through or they will face more losses like these.

A-. Coach <a href=. F. Orlando Magic. AARON GORDON

Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC. B+. Similar to Aaron Gordon, the Orlando Magic had to ask a lot more of <a href=. C

B. In a bit of a surprise, coach Steve Clifford decided to start <a href=. PG. Orlando Magic. MARKELLE FULTZ

C+. Ball movement is the key to the Orlando Magic’s offense. It is about getting into the paint and kicking out and keeping the ball moving. The Magic’s biggest struggle Saturday — and throughout the season — has been an inability to move the ball or taking that extra step and missing the easy pass. Orlando is not moving it naturally and that has the offense stuck.<p><a href=. G/F. Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER

B. The Denver Nuggets had the composure of a team that knows how good it can be. The Orlando Magic were frustrating them defensively and they just kept an even keel and kept attacking. Denver manufactured points at the foul line and waited for their star to carry them home. Nikola Jokic eventually did that, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the second half.<p>The Nuggets struggled to break the Magic’s defense down. Orlando did plenty well but the team got stuck and reverted to stagnant moving. The Nuggets were more than happy to take advantage. They did not turn it into fast-break opportunities, but they were able to get back into their groove. Especially attacking the basket.</p><p>Good teams find a way on their worst nights to win. The Nuggets have struggled to start the season and they did a good job finding a way to grind their way to a win. The Magic are still trying to learn this lesson as they hunt for their offense. Denver made the plays down the stretch and that is what mattered.</p>. 4-2. 5th West. DENVER NUGGETS

Next. Orlnado Magic's leaders must provide answers. dark

The Orlando Magic hit the road for a back-to-back starting Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.