Two young teams in the Denver Nuggets and Orlando Magic will match up tonight at the Pepsi Center in a battle of youth. The Nuggets are on a two-game winning streak and are returning home after a five-game road trip in which they finished 2-3, while the Magic just recently had their five-game winning streak snapped by the Los Angeles Clippers in a game they lost 101-103 on Saturday night. The Nuggets are coming off the worst game of the season by their starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who struggled to keep hold of the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers. He finished with 7 turnovers and 10 points on 4/12 shooting, but did contribute 6 assists in the win. 24 points by Danilo Gallinari and 16 off the bench by Will Barton helped the Nuggets survive this performance, however, and the Nuggets are looking to build a bit of a win streak after their recent 8-game losing stretch.
The Magic, with an average age of 24.6, are further along in the rebuilding process than the Nuggets, and they are constructed of a young core including rising stars Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, and Nikola Vucevic. Fournier, a player the Nuggets traded for Arron Afflalo a year ago, is the leading scorer of this team, averaging 16.3 points a game. Oladipo, meanwhile, has been coming off the bench in the last six games and has been playing great in this role. He's averaging 18.5 points, 6 rebounds and 4.7 assists in these games, and will give Denver's bench a challenge on both sides of the court.
Who: Orlando Magic (11-9) at Denver Nuggets (8-13)
When: 7:00 pm, MST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
Where to Watch: Altitude TV
Rival Blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post
|PG||Elfrid Payton||Emmanuel Mudiay||Magic|
|SG||Evan Fournier||Randy Foye||Magic|
|SF||Tobias Harris||Danilo Gallinari||Nuggets|
|PF||Channing Frye||Darrell Arthur||Even|
|C||Nikola Vucevic||Joffrey Lauvergne||Magic|
|Bench||Victor Oladipo, Jason Smith, Andrew Nicholson, Aaron Gordon, Shabazz Napier, Mario Hezonja, Devyn Marble, Dewayne Dedmon||Kenneth Faried,||
Injured players: Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (out), Gary Harris, concussion (doubtful), Danilo Gallinari, knee (questionable), C.J. Watson, calf (doubtful)
Key Matchup: Magic bench vs. Nuggets bench
Harrison Wind of BSN Denver had some interesting tweets yesterday regarding the defense of the Magic bench. This information makes the matchup between the Magic's second unit and the Nuggets' second unit one to keep an eye on for tonight's game.
Orlando's defense (5th best in last 6 games) goes from allowing 101.6 point/100 poss. when Fournier is on the court to 94.6 when he's off.— Harrison Wind (@NBAWind) December 7, 2015
In fact, Orlando's bench unit is a defensive juggernaut, especially with Oladipo, their offense, not so much.— Harrison Wind (@NBAWind) December 7, 2015
Obviously, Oladipo coming off the bench has helped their second unit on the defensive end. Considering Denver's bench struggles to score at times, this will not make it any easier on them tonight. This matchup will be spearheaded by Oladipo for the Magic and Barton for the Nuggets. If Coach Scott Skiles continues to bring Oladipo off the bench, these two will most likely be in contention for the Sixth Man of the Year award at the end of the season.
Thing to Watch: Emmanuel Mudiay
The thing to watch for this game is whether or not Emmanuel Mudiay can bounce back from the worst game of his young career. His stats against the 76ers, not overwhelmingly bad compared to some of the other games he's had this season, do not tell the whole story. For anybody that watched the game, it was painfully obvious that he was playing out of sorts. During stretches in the second and third quarter, he struggled mightily to keep control of the basketball, and had turnover after turnover during this period. This led to Michael Malone opting to bench him in the final minutes of the game for the second night in a row, in favor of Jameer Nelson. Tonight, it will be interesting to see if he plays better than he did on Saturday, because how rookies respond to bad games can say a lot about the players they become.
Key Question: Will Fournier go off in his return to Denver?
With Gary Harris once again most likely to miss this game, this is an extreme possibility.