After a tough loss to the Miami Heat last night, the Denver Nuggets have no time to sulk as they are quickly off to Orlando to have a showdown with the Magic tonight. Prior to the loss, the Nuggets had enjoyed a four game winning streak on the strength of a weak schedule that featured every game at home. After more than a week of the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets got punched in the mouth early and need to respond tonight in Orlando.
The Magic, fresh off a butt whipping at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, in many ways are similar to the Nuggets. They've stockpiled a nice collection of young assets which they can either develop or can look to move in the future to upgrade a position. Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, paired with former Nugget Evan Fournier, give the Magic a young and athletic back court with scoring capability. Dunk contest superstar Aaron Gordon has improved his overall game as well and is having a nice sophomore year. Additionally, as a product of being lottery bound for several years, they're are several more players coming off the Magic bench who were high draft picks in recent years, including our own Jeff Morton's favorite, sharpshooter Mario Hezonja.
The downside for Orlando is that they too are missing their European anchor on offense. Nikola Vucevic, who is the Magic's best all around player, has missed the previous four games and is a game time decision along with a slew of other Magic players. Without Vucevic the Magic's big rotation becomes dreadfully thin and a guy by the name of Dewayne Dedmon starts at the five. Fresh from the Tobias Harris trade, big man Ersan Ilyasova will have to fill the void if Vucevic can't go (and it looks like he won't).
Who: Denver Nuggets (28-39) at Orlando Magic (28-37)
When: 5PM MDT
Where: Amway Center, Orlando FL
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM 950
Rival blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post
|Orlando Magic||Denver Nuggets
|PG||Elfrid Payton||Emmanuel Mudiay||Even|
|SG||Victor Oladipo||Gary Harris||Even
|SF||Evan Fournier||Jakarr Sampson||Magic
|PF||Aaron Gordon||Kenneth Faried||Nuggets
|C||Dewayne Dedmon||Nikola Jokic||Nuggets
Will Barton, D.J. Augustin, Axel Toupane, Darrell Arthur, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Jusuf Nurkic,Jameer Nelson
Injured players: Joffrey Lauvergne - probable (face), Jusuf Nurkic - questionable (knee), Danilo Gallinari - out (ankle), Wilson Chandler - out (hip), Nikola Vucevic - doubtful (groin), Elfrid Payton - questionable (elbow), Brandon Jennings - probable (achilles), Ersan Ilyasova - probable (leg)
Key match up: Aaron Gordon vs Kenneth Faried
So many ways we could have gone here. That Oladipo/Harris match up is a tasty one, and if Payton goes then the Payton/Mudiay match up is a good one too, but I'd like undersized athletic power forwards for 1000 Alex. Faried is the slightly better player but its pretty close. Both players are solid offensively but Kenneth gets the advantage on the boards, like he does against most people. However, Gordon grades out as the better defender between the two. When it comes to these two they're both best known for their ability to make crowd awing rim rattling dunks and their games are quite similar. Also, both guys have had some pretty monster games as of late, Gordon recorded 20 points and 16 boards against the Warriors a couple games back and Faried is five games removed from his 25 point 20 board game against the Mavericks.
Key thing to watch for: Energy
The annual back to back down in Florida doesn't usually go very well for the Nuggets. Florida, especially Miami, after all has its distractions and to play a second game with no rest and all that going on can be taxing. The Nuggets aren't likely to win a track meet tonight which is fine because Orlando is middle of the pack in terms of pace. However, Denver does need to avoid sluggish starts to both the first and second half, something that has plagued them as of late, and keep up the energy against this young Magic team or they will find themselves on the wrong end of a game for the second night in a row.
Opening thought: It's a shame we don't get to see these two teams play more often
Orlando is one of the few teams in the league with more young assets stocking the cupboard than the Nuggets. Payton, Oladipo, Gordon, Fournier and Hezonja are all 23 years old or younger and a handful more of thier players are 26 years old or younger. With both teams so stocked in youth they have a good shot at becoming very good for a long time but because they play in different conferences they only face each other twice a year. Imagine a playoff series with all these even match ups going toe to toe, it would be quite entertaining indeed. Alas, I suppose we'll just have to wait until the teams meet in the finals in 2020.