The Denver Nuggets (10-4) are back in action tonight as they continue their five-game road trip with a game against the Orlando Magic (9-5). This has been one of the tougher matchups for the Nuggets over the last couple of years. Despite the Magic’s struggles as a team, they’ve split with the Nuggets in each of the last two seasons with both teams winning their respective home matchups in the head-to-head.

For Denver, it’s been a tumultuous week for them. They’re 1-2 thus far on the road trip, and, even in their win, Nikola Jokic and Michael Malone got ejected in the first half for arguing foul calls. It looked as if Denver was going to drop a third straight game, but the remaining crew was able to pick it up in the second half to secure the victory over the Detroit Pistons.

For the Magic, they’ve started the season strong. They won their ninth game last night with a drubbing of the Toronto Raptors after needing until mid-December to win their ninth game last night. They’re steadily figuring things out with their young core of talented players, and they tend to make every game an ugly affair where neither side comes out without a few bumps and bruises.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (10-4, 3-4 away) @ Orlando Magic (9-5, 4-2 home)

When: 5:00 p.m. MST

Where: Amway Center

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 Orlando. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Expected Starting Lineups:

ORL: PG Jalen Suggs, SG Anthony Black, SF Franz Wagner, PF Paolo Banchero, C Goga Bitadze

DEN: PG Reggie Jackson, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Jamal Murray (hamstring) OUT, Zeke Nnaji (ankle) PROBABLE, Wendell Carter (finger) OUT, Markelle Fultz (knee) OUT

Three Things to Watch

Fouls & Free Throws

It’s no secret to anyone that has watched the Nuggets over the last few years that Nikola Jokic doesn’t get the friendliest whistle compared to the league’s other superstars. His 81 free throw attempts are nearly half that of perennial league-leader Joel Embiid’s 155. However, against the Pistons, Jokic let his frustrations boil over and resulted in an ejection. The Magic rank first in free throw attempts as a team, and they foul the ninth-most in the NBA. Jokic and the Nuggets need to keep their heads about them even if the whistle isn’t going their way.

Possessions Matter

When the Nuggets have struggled in the Malone era, turnovers have often been a big indicator as to how that game is going. Turnovers lead to easy baskets on the other end, and it can quickly wipe out any momentum the team is building. The Magic lead the league in turnovers forced per game, and they’re fifth in turnovers committed. Throw in the fact that this game likely ends up being on the slower side of things with the Magic playing on the second night of a back-to-back, and every possession is going to matter in this one. If Denver can take care of the ball, that will dramatically help their chances of victory. 

KCP for 3

On the year, you can point to star performances by Jokic or Murray as the reasons that Denver have walked away victorious, but I’m looking at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in this one. The Magic are top six in 3-point makes and attempts allowed, and they’re just outside the top 10 in 3-point percentage allowed. KCP hasn’t been hitting or taking a crazy volume of shots, but his 3-point shooting spaces the floor a ton for everyone else. He’s currently -115 on PointsBet Sportsbook to make 2 or more 3-pointers. In the team’s 10 wins, he’s hit that number in 8/10 games compared to just 1/4 in their four losses. I like him to go over that number tonight.

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