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Preview: Denver Nuggets look for two in a row against Orlando Magic

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (31-25) have been up and down all year, and they’re on a bit of an upswing heading into the All-Star Break. They’ll be looking for their second straight win tonight as they try to exact early-season revenge on the Orlando Magic (13-45) who knocked them off on the road back in early December.

Denver is 6-4 in their last 10 games, and this is their final home game before the break. They’ll travel to take on the Golden State Warriors (42-15) on Wednesday, so they’re really hoping for a win tonight to try and maintain as much positive momentum as possible ahead of taking a week off. Orlando has struggled all year, but they consistently play team’s tough on a nightly basis.

For the Magic, they’ve had a rough year due to a lot of injuries, but they’re trending upward as of late with a 4-6 record in their last 10 games, including a win over the fourth-place Dallas Mavericks (33-24) in that stretch. This season is all about developing their young talent, and any wins they get along the way are just a bonus on the top.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (31-25, 15-10 home) vs Orlando Magic (13-45, 8-25 away)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Orlando Pinstriped Post

Expected Starting Lineups:

ORL: PG Cole Anthony, SG Jalen Suggs, SF Franz Wagner, PF Wendell Carter Jr., C Mo Bamba

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Monte Morris (concussion), Zeke Nnaji (hamstring), Moritz Wagner (rib)

Three Things to Watch

Nikola Jokic vs Orlando Bigs

Nikola Jokic is near the top of the odds to win his second-straight MVP award, and he puts up fantastic showings nearly every night. However, in the previous matchup, he had one of his worst outings of the year. Orlando’s size likely played a part in that, as they have two different players that start, in Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba, that can take some of Jokic’s physicality inside. If they can wear him out during the early part of the game, it will affect his overall effectiveness down the stretch.

Aaron Gordon

Since being traded to the Nuggets last season, Aaron Gordon has suited up against his old squad for two games. In those games, he’s averaging 20.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 68 percent from the field. When he’s played well on the offensive end, the team has traditionally fared well. Gordon is likely to be matched up with rookie Franz Wagner, and that is a matchup he should be able to exploit thanks to his size and speed.

Stopping Ball Penetration

The Nuggets lost their previous matchup due to a number of reasons, but the top one was their inability to keep the ball away from the rim. Orlando shot just 6-of-27 on 3-pointers in the game, and they’re 26th on the year in 3-point percentage despite ranking 13th in 3-point attempts. In that game, Orlando shot 54.3 percent from the field because they were getting looks at the rim and getting shots to fall from the mid-range. Forcing this team, which lacks elite outside shooting, to shoot shots they’re not strong with is a strong tactic in favor of victory.