Denver wrapped up a long road tour with a trip to Orlando and the Amway Center against the Magic. Orlando's youth movement had shown some signs of life of late, with their youth movement finally starting to show some progress. Denver would have to be on their game after a three-game slide.
The Nuggets come out of the gates a little slow, taking two and a half minutes before getting a long three-pointer from Danilo Gallinari. A rough start down low for all Nuggets passers, as Orlando's early defensive plan seems to be collapsing into the lanes quickly when Denver drives to the bucket.
With that plan, Gallo seems to be Denver's only shooter hitting from outside of eight feet early, and halfway through the period, Orlando had ridden that combo to a 17-11 lead. A tough start for both Kenneth Faried and Ty Lawson, who will hopefully come out of their early slumps to give the Nuggets a lift.
At the three-minute mark, Gallo is keeping Denver in the game with 13 of Denver's 18 points, and his hot shooting is pulling multiple defenders out to him, even beyond the arc. Once Gallo sees double teams, he's able to pass down low, and gives J.J. Hickson a couple of easy lay-ins off the doubling. Gallinari is looking more and more like the Gallo of old, a nice sight for Nuggets faithful. With bench substitutions, Melvin Hunt brings Jameer Nelson in for some scoring punch to spell Gallo, and Nelson puts up a quick eight points to lead Denver to a 28-25 first quarter lead. I've been piling on Ty Lawson of late, but Ty had a rough first quarter - Zero points, two assists, and one turnover with some tough defensive moments as well. Hoping Ty can get back in synch for the game.
The bench is in the game full force to start the second quarter, extending the run they started in the first to a 13-0 sprint that has them up 33-25 just over a minute into the frame. Will Barton's entrance into the game continued to display his emergence with the Denver Nuggets, as he's been a different player than he was in Portland, and his play has been timely. Barton nets a quick five points on a couple of nice plays around the hoop. J.J. Hickson is making inroads down low on the run as well, and after three minutes J.J. has seven points. Scoring all around for the boys in blue.
Speaking of Denver's bench, they had been having scoring troubles in the past few games. Tonight seems to have shifted that metric, and suddenly some tough Denver D and a high-scoring bench had Denver up by a dozen (45-33). Gallo re-enters the game, nails a quick three (on his second try), and Orlando calls a quick timeout to gather themselves before the Nuggets run away with things.
The timeout is fruitless for the Magic, as by the 5:00 mark, Denver is up 56-35 off a series of pretty assists from Nelson (think he wanted to come home and show them something? At that mark, Jameer had 11 points and five assists). By the end of an impressive second quarter, the Denver bench had 41 of the Nuggets 69 points, with Gallinari (18) and Nurkic (7) making up all but three of the remainder. At the half, the Nuggets are up 69-51,
To their credit, Denver doesn't rest on their laurels in the third, and take the ball to the hoop time and again, taking advantage of what appears to now be a tired Orlando Magic squad. Gallo continues to pour it on, and five minutes into the half, he has 27 points. Halfway through the third, Lawson's stats are as I reported them at the end of Q1. He's still a +9. As I type that, Ty feeds Jusuf Nurkic for a pretty slam that puts Denver up by 27, 88-61. An empty Amway Center looks even moreso at this point.
Nurk picks up a couple of silly fouls in the third, and Coach Hun decides to leave him in the game with five fouls. Will be interesting to see how Jusuf handles the chance to stay in and play, and it quickly gives him the chance to move into double-digit scoring with a nifty layup that puts him at 11. The floodgates are opening for the Nuggets at the end of the quarter, with Gallo leading the way with a season-high 32 points and the Nuggets already cracking the century mark. After three, Denver up 102-72.
Annnnnnnnd I always find something to bitch about. Up 30, and recently eliminated from the playoffs... why are the starters still in? To answer my question, Nurkic fouls out inside of 60 seconds.
Somehow, Orlando has decided to still not guard Gallo, and just inside the 10-minute mark, he drops in his 37th point on a long three. One minute later, another trey puts Danilo to his career high with 40, and the shot takes the lead back to thirty. One would think this might settle the argument about whether or not Gallinari is back.
Coming up on the eight minute mark, Melvin Hunt finally brings the youth movement in, (though Erick Green did have 6 points in the first half) and Green, Gary Harris, and Joffrey Lauvergne get some extended play, with Lauvergne showing some nice handles with a pass slung out of a double-team to J.J. Hickson for a sweet lay-in. Orlando accidentally double-teaming Lauvergne tells you all you need to know about how their evening went.
The last six minutes went without a lot to report, aside from another slow meltdown by the rookie squad (plus J.J. and Barton) allowing some daylight back into the picture for Orlando, but too little, too late for the Magic, and Denver wraps up a five-game road swing respectably, to make it 2-3 on the trip. Final score, Denver beats Orlando 119-100.
Jameer Nelson was ready to show his old home a little Magic of his own, with 15 points, five assists, and a steal in his 17 minutes on the floor. A big impact for Jameer in his return to Orlando.
Will Barton, Kenneth Faried, Jusuf, Nurkic, and J.J. Hickson each had 11 points on the night. Their 44 points and 24 rebounds in total made it a long night for Orlando down low.
Danilo Gallinari. 40. Points. Sorprendente!
Lawson did add to his assists totals by the end, with eight on the evening. No points on two shots meant I would have expected an even higher assists total in 27 minutes. Maybe I'm just swayed by the tide, but it feels like Ty is shrinking in the moment to me. One guy's view.
The rookie trio of Harris. Green, and Lauvergne are troubling in their current moments of ineptitiude. The price most any rookie pays, I suppose, and probably complicated by their doing so in concert. Hoping to see some traction for those three over this last 11 games.
The Orlando Magic. Sorry, Magic fans. We all have games we'd rather forget.
11 more games, and a big win for your Nuggets tonight. What was your favorite part of tonight's win, Nuggets Nation?