The Denver Nuggets are riding high after a statement road win over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night. The victory brought their winning streak to six games, which they’ll hope to extend to seven when they take on the Orlando Magic tonight.
The Magic have shown some improvements this year—they’ve played well on the defensive end, and they’ve done a good job of limiting turnovers as they’ve tried to manufacture some offense despite their lack of shooting. They’re on a two-game winning streak after handling their geographical rivals, the Miami Heat, last night. And they’ll have revenge on the mind as they hope to hand the Nuggets an L for the first time since 2016.
Orlando doesn’t present the challenge that Toronto or even Portland did, but a win tonight won’t be easy. The Magic can beat a good basketball team, and the Nuggets might be without their budding star, Gary Harris, who was scheduled to receive an MRI on his right hip yesterday. There is no update yet on his status.
Who: Denver Nuggets (16-7, 7-4) vs Orlando Magic (12-12, 6-6)
When: 5:00 PM MT
Where: Amway Center • Orlando, Florida
How to watch: Altitude, NBA League Pass, FSFL
Rival Blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post
Nuggets: Will Barton, Isaiah Thomas, Jarred Vanderbilt, Michael Porter Jr. - out
Magic: Timofey Mozgov - out
What to Watch For
The turnover battle. The Nuggets offense is talented enough, and their defense has been stout enough, that limiting their turnovers is often the biggest hurdle between them and a victory. In other words, they simply have to stay out of their own way. That will be easier said than done in this one, as the Magic’s arachnoid roster has bothered opposing offenses with their length, and posted the eleventh best defensive turnover percentage in the league, per CleaningTheGlass.com. On the other end, the Magic actually boast the league’s third best assist-to-turnover ratio, one spot ahead of the Nuggets.
Free throws. The Nuggets have had a tough time keeping their opponents off the line in their losses this season, and that should be an important factor in tonight’s game. Given Orlando’s struggles in the half court offense, and Denver’s newfound ability to defend, “staying out of their own way” includes keeping the Magic off the charity stripe. This, however, should not be too arduous a task. Per Cleaning The Glass, the Magic rank dead last in team free throw rate.
The battle of Nikola’s. Two of the best offensive centers in the league will square off when Nikola Jokić and Nikola Vučević match up tonight. Vučević hasn’t shown an ability to transform an offense the way Jokić has, but he’s been a walking double-double for years now in the world’s most competitive basketball league. Jokic looked like one of the world’s best players in Toronto on Monday night, and the Nuggets would love to see the big man string two such performances together. It’s Nikola v. Nikola. There can only be one.
The Nuggets are listed as 5 point favorites despite being on the road, although the Magic will be playing their second game in as many days. Given Denver’s play of late, the way they handled Orlando at home, and the Magic’s potentially tired legs, a Nuggets win seems probable. I’ll take the Nuggets straight up, but I like the spread as well.
Nuggets 115-Magic 108.
Good teams win, great teams cover.