Coming off a five-game road trip, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Denver Nuggets by the score of 85-82. Jameer Nelson was the hero for the Magic, as he was able to make a game-winning three-pointer with time expiring. The stage was set when Orlando had a two-point lead with 23.9 seconds left. The Nuggets had possession and a chance to either tie or win the game in regulation. Ty Lawson ran a 1/5 pick and roll with Nene Hilario. Unfortunately for Lawson, he threw a poor bounce pass to Nene as he cut to the basket and turned the basketball over. Hedo Turkoglu grabbed the ball and was subsequently fouled. Turkoglu, however, missed both free-throws, which would have given the Magic a chance to force the Nuggets to tie the game with a three-pointer or ice it altogether. Instead, Turkoglu left the door open and Denver was able to capitalize on the ensuing possession, as Danilo Gallinari was able to attack the basket. Ironically enough, Gallinari drew a foul on Turkoglu and was able to make both free-throws. With the game tied and 5.7 seconds left, Orlando opted to give Nelson the ball at the top of the key and he was able to deliver with a game-winning three-point shot that looked good the moment it left it hands. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players were able to score in double-figures. Dwight Howard finished with 16 points, 18 rebounds, four steals, and five blocks. Turkoglu flirted with a triple-double, chipping in with 15 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Brandon Bass each had 13 points. The Nuggets entered the game with the best offense in the NBA, a ranking they’ve been able to maintain even after trading their two best player on offense — Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. It seemed certain that Denver was going to test Orlando’s defense and cause problems.
Instead, it was none of the sort.
Throughout the evening, the Nuggets settled for jumpshots, which made it tough for them to score with any consistency.
Part of that was great Magic defense, as they were able to prevent dribble penetration and force players like Raymond Felton and Lawson to kick it out to the perimeter to shooters like Gallinari. Even players like Nene, the main threat offensively for Denver in the low post, opted to operate from the perimeter instead of attacking Howard head-on because he was doing a good job of blocking shots and being a force defensively. Orlando’s transition defense deserves kudos, too, for bottling up fast break opportunities, which increased pressure for their opponent to execute in half-court sets. But even then, there were times when Denver just shot a bunch of jumpshots for the sake of it. It bailed the Magic out.
Consequently, Orlando did the same thing on the other end of the floor.
Too many times, the Magic would neglect Howard on the low block and instead opted to try to create shots on one-on-one opportunities instead of working inside-out like they should be doing. As such, Orlando had a difficult time scoring and putting the game away when they had the chance.
Nelson deserves a lot of praise for being able to step up in the clutch and make a basket when the Magic needed him to. And for a player like Nelson, shots like that can go a long way in building confidence heading into the playoffs.
But it should have never gotten to that point.
Nevertheless, it was a great win for Orlando. The Nuggets have been playing some of the best basketball out of every team in the league since the All-Star break, and the Magic were able to grind out a victory.