The Denver Nuggets started out their matchup with the Orlando Magic with a strong first quarter where they were leading by 14 thanks to strong starts from Aaron Gordon and Will Barton. Nikola Jokic was taking a back seat to the rest of the team, but he was on pace for another easy triple-double at the end of the first period. Unfortunately, Denver’s luck would run out after that first quarter.

The Nuggets’ lead eventually bloomed to 16 points, but it started to be downhill during the second quarter. After winning the first quarter by 14, Denver won the second by just two. Zeke Nnaji continued to show some strong play in the second period, and he eventually ended up with a final shooting line of 3-of-3 and 2-of-2 from 3-point range. He put up some decent defensive plays as well, and it’s just unfortunate that he’s not getting more touches on the offensive end of the floor, especially with the way other members of the bench are scoring.

The third quarter is when things really started to go downhill for Denver as they lost the quarter by 12, and their lead was all but evaporated with just a quarter left to play. Jokic in particular seemed out of it all night. With the play of others rising around him, it was stunning to see that he was struggling to rise to the occasion. He ultimately finished the night just 7-of-19 from the field, including 0-of-5 from 3-point range with five turnovers. The third quarter of basketball by the Nuggets was one of the worst that they’ve played all season long.

In the fourth quarter, things didn’t change, especially with Jokic and Barton both having extended rests during the quarter. The Magic finally took their first lead of the game midway through the quarter, and they never looked back, as they won the quarter 29-20. The Nuggets were getting buckets from guys like Monte Morris and Gordon, but they weren’t getting the key ones from Jokic that they’re so used to seeing. On this long road trip, this wasn’t a must-win game, but it was one that they really didn’t want to drop with how crowded the Western Conference is in the middle of the pack.

Stat Leaders

Points: Monte Morris – 22

Assists: Nikola Jokic – 7

Rebounds: Jokic – 15

Player of the Game: Aaron Gordon – 17 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 7-of-12 field goal, 1-of-5 3-point, 2-of-4 free throw