Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
On Saturday, the Utah Jazz punished the Orlando Magic’s interior defense below the rim. Yes, Derrick Favors provided the Jazz with some aerial coverage thanks to a couple of dunks. But for the most part, with Al Jefferson leading the way, it was mostly a ground assault for Utah — footwork and touch were the main weapons of choice.
On Sunday, the Denver Nuggets seemingly outclassed the Magic with their athleticism and racked up 64 points in the paint in part because JaVale McGee could out-jump everyone else on the floor. It seems silly to cite “jumping higher” as a reason for the Nuggets’ victory, but that truly was one of the differences in the game.
For three quarters, Orlando was competitive against Denver, even after Jameer Nelson left the first quarter with a calf injury no more than two minutes into the ballgame. Sure, the Magic had trouble scoring at times, struggling to get things going from the perimeter. And sure, Orlando had difficulty preventing the Nuggets from generating almost all their points at the rim.
But when you consider the Magic, with their three-point shooting ability, are a team that’s more than capable of erasing an 11-point deficit heading into the final period, it’s fair to describe the game as a winnable one.
Then the fourth quarter happened.
More specifically, JaVale McGee happened.
Late in the third quarter, McGee connected with Andre Miller for two alley-oop dunks that were a harbinger of things to come for Orlando.
Needless to say, Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis are players not known for their leaping ability. McGee, on the other hand, is.
McGee can be a caricature of himself on a basketball court a lot of times, but that still doesn’t change the fact that he has an insane leaping ability and Denver put that to good use in the fourth quarter. No matter how hard Anderson and Davis tried, they could do nothing from preventing the Nuggets from throwing alley-oop lobs to McGee for dunks. Head coach Stan Van Gundy even tried to implement a zone defense to slow down or stop McGee, but it didn’t work.
With every alley-oop dunk, the Magic were becoming demoralized and their desire to compete slowly fizzled away. A tied game at halftime turned into a 27-point blowout loss for Orlando, with McGee acting as the catalyst for Denver.
Who would have thought McGee would be the difference-maker?
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Yes, this game was a blowout win for the Nuggets. However, Ryan Anderson (24 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the floor) was the main reason the Magic were competitive for three quarters before things got out of hand in the fourth quarter.
McGee, owner of an infamous “Not Top 10″ list on YouTube, was an x-factor for Denver. You read that right. Blessed with the gift of being able to jump really high, McGee tortured Orlando with an array of alley-oop dunks.
That Was … a Tale of Two Halves
At halftime, the score was tied at 44 apiece. In the second half, the Nuggets outscored the Magic by 27 points. Of note: Denver released the Kraken in the form of McGee and Orlando could not stop him.