Jamal Murray had a nice game for the Nuggets, leading the team in scoring with 23 points on 12 shots, showing out in his first game back. Jokic finished with zero points, missing both his free throws and his only field goal attempt, a frustrating game as the team is set to begin playing games that matter.
The Magic were lead in scoring by forward Gary Clark, who had 17 points, including going 4 for 8 on 3-point attempts. The Magic went 18 for 37 on their 3-point attempts, knocking in jumpers every time the Nuggets were trying to cut the lead down below double digits.
The Nuggets didn’t play particularly well for consistent stretches of time, and were done in by a 19-0 run by the Magic in the second quarter.
The Nuggets started with Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Jerami Grant, Paul Millsap, and Nikola Jokic, the first time they were able to use that lineup in Orlando. They struggled with turnovers to start the game, showing some rust after having four months off. Barton was happy to be back on the court, getting a bunch of shots off early for the team, although he misfired on most of those shots. Jerami Grant had a nice two-handed block on a shot by James Ennis III, swatting the ball out of bounds on the baseline.
Michael Porter Jr. checked into the game at the 5:00 mark, getting some run with the remainer of the starters minus Grant. The young rookie made an immediate impact, knocking down a jumper, then grabbing an offensive rebound and dunking with two hands. After a timeout, more of the bench rotation came into the game, with Mason Plumlee and Torrey Craig checking into the game. Nuggets exhibition legend Bol Bol joined the team a minute later, completing the Unicorn Squad with MPJ for the first time. The Magic were able to go on a Jonathan Isaac-powered run, stretching the lead up to 29-19 at the end of the first quarter.
The Magic made their first two shots of the quarter, then Porter Jr. fouled Isaac on a 3-point attempt, with the forward making his free throw to boot. MPJ followed it up with an offensive rebound and dunk, but Markelle Fultz knocked in a triple to stretch the run to 22-2. Malone put the starters back in to try to help quell the onslaught, and the team started taking better shots with improved defense. Millsap had a really strong baseline drive for a bucket, then followed it up with a strong cut and finish at the rim.
Jerami Grant was able to make it three straight layups for the Nuggets, cutting the Magic lead to 12 points. After a block by MPJ, Murray hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to just seven points. They had rallied to within seven points with a minute left, but things unraveled quickly to close out the half. MPJ turned the ball over traveling, and Orlando hit back-to-back 3-pointers to help stretch the lead back into double digits. MPJ goaltended a shot by Vucevic with 0.8 seconds left, a call the referees upheld after a review, and Denver was down 60-49 at halftime. Murray finished the half with 17 points, and has looked really good so far. Jokic made and attempted zero shots, which is frustrating, since this is supposed to be a tune up for the games that matter.
Murray came out of halftime still hot, making two straight midrange jumpers on nice plays where he was able to create separation from his defender and hit nothing but net on his shots. Murray caught the defense sleeping on Torrey Craig, finding the wing on the left corner for a clean 3-pointer. The Nuggets got sloppy with the ball, with Grant throwing a bad lob to Murray and Jokic making a lazy pass out of a double team to lead to a couple really easy baskets for the Magic, wiping out the momentum the team had to start the quarter.
After a smart timeout by Malone, the Nuggets forced a turnover and were able to get easy points in transition. The starters started to look a bit fatigued, and their defense let up, with DJ Augustin getting hot and knocking in a couple 3-pointers. The reserves made their way into the game, and Mason Plumlee immediately got stripped by Evan Fournier. Craig had an emphatic block on a Fournier drive, but Porter Jr. made a lazy pass and got dunked on by Gary Clark. Clark got his confidence up, and was able to make a 3-pointer too, as the Magic continued to do enough to keep them ahead by double digits despite the Nuggets best efforts. MPJ was able to knock in a couple more shots to help cut the lead down to five, but Terrence Ross hit a 3-pointer to help cool off the Nuggets offense.
The Nuggets got a 3-pointer from Torrey Craig early in the fourth, but the Magic were really able to pour it on with a ton of made baskets to go on a 13-4 run in the first two minutes. Bol Bol made a nice play on the wing, stepping around Mo Bamba and casually draining a free throw jumper. He followed up his midrange jumper with a nice 3-pointer, and the Nuggets forced a turnover that lead to a Plumlee 180° dunk that cut the lead to eight. Bol hit another triple, pulling up off a handoff from Tyler Cook.
Plumlee stole the ball out on the perimeter, diving to the floor to keep it inbounds, and Keita Bates-Diop was able to finish in traffic. Torrey Craig was able to strip Melvin Frazier Jr., and while he missed his layup attempt, Plumlee followed it up with a putback dunk. The Nuggets went with another Monstar kind of lineup to close the game, with Craig at point, Bates-Diop at two-guard, Noah Vonleh at small forward, Tyler Cook at power forward, and Bol Bol at center. The offense was ugly, and while they cut the lead to just four points, they weren’t able to get baskets in the final minute to steal a win.