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Nuggets at Magic: The Orlando Howards? (5pm MDT)

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The Denver Nuggets look to continue their winning ways in Orlando against the team ostensibly called the "Magic" ... but we all know different don't we?

There's a player on the Orlando Magic who's 7-feet tall and has the shoulders and body build that, basically, make you want to give up working out all together. His name is Dwight Howard. Or as I like to call him, "the reason the Magic win games."

The Magic formula for victory is very simple. Feed the ball to Dwight Howard as much as possible, then kick the ball out to their various three-point shooters (Jason Richardson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu) when the defense collapses on Howard. Throw in some dribble penetration by Nuggets erstwhile draftee Jameer Nelson and mid-perimiter work by Ryan Anderson and there you have it. Simple, yet deceptively effective structure when it's working perfectly. Meanwhile you will get the yells from the interestingly short armed Stan Van Gundy (I still consider him to be a good coach). Panic time-outs ... and a general feeling that you're not quite sure how the Magic pulled out a victory.

Well, I take that back. You ARE sure how the Magic won. To be precise, the Magic win when Howard dominates like the best center in the league (which he is). The guy can be the most unstoppable force in basketball when he doesn't let the officials get in his head. While that has been an issue (witness his 16 technical's this season resulting in a one-game suspension) when he is on. he is the most dominating force in the NBA as a rebouder, shot blocker and low-post player. So I think we have unlocked the key to the Magic.

If Hedo Turkoglu was playing like he did in 2008-09, I'd say that the Nuggets would have virtually no chance Friday night. However, Turkoglu has been playing erratically since returning in December to the Magic from Phoenix via trade. His offensive game has failed him a bit, and the "point forward" aspect of Turkoglu's game has all but disappeared. If he gets his game together by the end of the regular season the Magic will be a force in the playoffs.

Another key will be stopping the dribble penetration of Nelson. The Nuggets, in the past (particularly in Orlando), have struggled preventing Nelson's drives to the basket. This leads to easy dunks by Howard. If the Nuggets can contain Nelson it would go a long way to getting a difficult victory on the road.

Nuggets of Wisdom

Our Nuggets have been riding a dream wave since the Carmelo Anthony trade in February. A stellar 9-2 record and it gives fans hope for the future. The next two games (against Orlando and Miami) will go a long way to spelling out exactly what kind of team we have on our hands.

As of this writing, Danilo Gallinari is still questionable for the game. He has indicated he wants to try and give it a go, but we'll see. With a healthy Gallo in the lineup, we will see the Nuggets as envisioned after the Melo trade for only the third time. Gallo's last game included 30 points and a great fourth quarter in which he dominated the Trail Blazers all by himself. Let's see how much rust Gallo will have when he comes back.

Nene and Kenyon Martin have been defensive beasts (throw in Chris Andersen) and that, in my opinion has been a greater contributing factor in these recent Nuggets victories (particularly in New Orleans). Nene needs to step it up big time against Howard and I envision lots of help defense and "junk ball" as Alvin Gentry called it last week.

I'm looking forward to the this game. Go Nuggets!! Go Tyray Felson!

Happy St. Patricks Day everyone!

Opposition's take: Orlando Pinstriped Post

Jeff Morton
Email: mortonagency@juno.com