Game 64: 2013-14 NBA Season

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27-36 (11-20 road)
Series 1-0
19-46 (15-16 home)
March 12th, 2014
Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
5:00 PM MT
Altitude 2 / 950 AM
Ty Lawson PG Jameer Nelson
Randy Foye SG Arron Afflalo
Wilson Chandler SF Maurice Harkless
Kenneth Faried PF Tobias Harris
Timofey Mozgov C Nikola Vucevic
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Danilo Gallinari (knee) is out, JaVale McGee(leg fracture) is out, Nate Robinson (ACL sprain) is out Injuries None
The Denver Nuggets have one road win since January 26th. Facts 15 of Orlando’s 19 wins have been in the friendly confines of the Amway Center.

The Denver Nuggetswinter of discontent continues as they roll into the Amway Center to face the Orlando Magic, a team that is set to receive the lower of the Nuggets’ two first-round draft picks in the 2014 NBA draft.

The two teams last met in mid-January in Denver. The 120-94 rout by the Nuggets was significant in the sense that it was the final win in a five-game winning streak, as well as the last time the team displayed anything close to consistent, winning basketball. Naturally, in a season that can be described as uneven at best, that streak came after an eight-game losing streak that effectively knocked the Nuggets out of playoff contention.

Since that game, the Nuggets have been in an 8-27 tailspin. The defense is the most obvious culprit; Denver has held a team below 100 points in two of those 35 games. But the offense has sputtered as well; during the team's recent six-game losing streak, they only managed to score over 100 points once. For a team like Denver, who need a prolific offense to make up for their defensive shortcomings, scoring less than 100 is a death knell. They have won exactly three games all season when failing to breach the century mark.

Granted, Ty Lawson missed the majority of those games during the latest losing streak, and the offense has looked better since his return. It still hasn’t been enough, though, and the loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night further showed how far this team has fallen. In the same season they managed to sweep the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time in franchise history, the Nuggets somehow were swept by the Charlotte Bobcats, a fringe playoff team in a horrible Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, the Magic find themselves in an interesting predicament. Knowing they were going to get two first-round picks at the very least this summer, the Magic have been in full-blown tank mode since the season began. Kudos to them, as they are still one of only three teams that have yet to eclipse twenty wins. The interesting wrinkle is that in addition to their own first-round pick, the Magic will also receive one of Denver’s first-rounders. Denver has one of their own and will receive the New York Knick’s first-round pick as fallout from the Carmelo Anthony trade; the Magic will get whichever pick is lower between the two as compensation for the Arron Afflalo/Dwight Howard/Andre Iguodala misfire trade.

Thus, no matter what happens in this game, it’s going to help the Magic out. Either they lose and continue their masterful tanking, ensuring their own first-round pick stays firmly in the top-five range. Or, they can win and nudge the Nuggets’ record closer to that of the Knicks, basically setting themselves up for two picks in the top ten.

The Nuggets' hopes are firmly pinned on the Knicks missing the playoffs. However, the way both teams are playing right now, it's very possible the Nuggets end up with the worse record. The Knicks are still four games back (ahead?) in the loss column, but they are on a four-game win streak and the Nuggets are mired in a deep funk. New York has a decently difficult closing stretch and I do still think they miss the playoffs. Whether or not that will be enough to snare Denver a top-five pick remains to be seen. Now is the winter of our discontent, but it may be made into a glorious summer by the sons of (New) York.

Game Predictions –

– I really miss Arron Afflalo. He was a consummate professional who improved every season he was here. When the trade for Iguodala went down, I was in favor of it because I thought Iguodala was a better player. Now I honestly think I like Afflalo's game better, never mind my personal distaste for the way Iguodala left Denver. Arron's going to have a big game against his former team, with 25-30 points.

– Wilson Chandler was dreadful in the last game against the Bobcats. He usually doesn't have two terrible games in a row, so I'm guessing he bounces back tonight. And he definitely will not attempt 10 three-pointers.

– I also think somebody else steps up in the scoring department tonight to help Lawson out. The Nuggets' leading scorer will be… Randy Foye!

– Nikola Vucevic is a tremendous rebounder, and it will be important for Kenneth Faried and J.J. Hickson to battle inside and try to avoid giving up offensive rebounds for second-chance points. The team did better in that regard against the Bobcats after giving up 18 in the New Orleans game. I think either Faried or Hickson ends up with more rebounds than Vucevic.

– Magic rookie Victor Oladipo is returning from injury but will still be a force to be reckoned with. He’ll be the second-leading scorer for the Magic tonight, whether it’s as a starter or off the bench.

– I'm still having difficulty wrapping my brain around the fact the Nuggets lost to the Bobcats TWICE. If they can do that, anything is possible. That being said, I do think they pull this one out 109-104.