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Preview: Nuggets travel east to face Magic

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As trade rumors swirl, the Nuggets will face the sinking Magic.

Orlando Magic v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

With the NBA trade deadline two days away, the Nuggets take off for a quick Eastern Conference jaunt that starts off with a matchup against the Magic.

Things are bleak in Florida for the Magic, who are having to deal with a trade demand from their former All-Star Dunk Champion Aaron Gordon. Their franchise center, Nikola Vucevic, is playing the best basketball of his career, but it’s for naught as the rest of the team has been hammered by injuries and an overall level of ineptitude that is the result of years of mismanagement and a lack of development by the coaching staff. A bad organization has finally fallen out of the bottom of the playoff race, and they are on track for a high lottery pick as they continue to fall in the standings.

The Nuggets are hoping to bounce back and resume their winning ways after losing a Sunday matinee matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Magic don’t have a player nearly on the level of a Zion Williamson, so as long as the Nuggets play responsible, accountable defense, and avoid turnovers on offense, they should be able to find victory tonight.

It’s an early start for Nuggets fans west of the Mississippi, which will leave the rest of the evening to speculate about trade rumors. I’m not going to feed you some half-baked rumor based off of me spending too much time on Twitter about Aaron Gordon or some other potential trade piece. The Nuggets don’t have valuable assets outside of Michael Porter Jr., and Tim Connelly’s history of making moves to load up for a playoff run is scant (unless you’re a big fan of Mason Plumlee or Keita Bates-Diop). I’ll believe the Nuggets are making a trade when I see the notification from Woj and not a second before.

Let’s just play the game, and focus on what happens on the court. That being said, I do like Khem Birch as a backup center.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (25-17) vs Orlando Magic (14-28)

When: 5:00 PM MDT

Where: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida

How to Watch: Altitude, League Pass

Rival Blog: Orlando Pinstriped

Lineups

POS IND DEN EDGE
POS IND DEN EDGE
PG Michael Carter-Williams Jamal Murray Nuggets
SG Evan Fournier Will Barton Nuggets
SF Al-Farouq Aminu Michael Porter Jr. Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Paul Millsap Magic
C Nikola Vucevic Nikola Jokic Nuggets
BENCH Chuma Okeke, James Ennis III, Khem Birch, Dwayne Bacon, Gary Clark Facu Campazzo, PJ Dozier, Jamychal Green, Isaiah Hartenstein Nuggets

Injuries: Mo Bamba, Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac - out; Terrence Ross, Cole Anthony (questionable); Monte Morris, Gary Harris (out); Greg Whittington (questionable).

Three Things to Watch

Win the turnover battle. The Magic don’t have scoring threats outside of Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier. It’s not a difficult team to gameplan against — protect the paint, don’t give up backdoor cuts, and don’t give them easy transition points. If they can take care of the ball — even if that means settling for less than ideal shots — they’ll be able to limit the Magic’s offensive production and should be able to figure out their defense.

Weather forecast - cloudy with a chance of showers. This is a game where the Nuggets top scorers should be able to make it rain. You like that joke? Anyways, it would be nice to see Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray take advantage of good matchups and put up solid, efficient scoring nights. The Nuggets shouldn’t need Nikola Jokic to go off for 30+ points tonight — let the other players carry that scoring responsibility tonight and get into a rhythm for the remainder of the road trip.

Bubble Murray back? Jamal Murray played some of the best basketball of anyone on the planet in Orlando last fall, helping lead the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals. It’s a different gym, but maybe the return to the humid plains of Orlando will help remind him what it’s like to drop 50 on an opponent.

Bonus — will Facu shoot? I’m just kidding with you all.

Prediction

Nuggets 115 - Magic 98