AP Photo/Barry Gutierrez
With the score tied at 99 apiece and 2:14 remaining, the Orlando Magic found themselves in a familiar place — in position to win the game late. This time against the Denver Nuggets. Once again, Orlando came away with a loss. And once again, it was a game full of missed opportunities for the Magic.
With 1:27 left, Ty Lawson converted a traditional three-point play that gave the Nuggets a 102-99 lead. Lawson found himself isolated against Jameer Nelson and broke him down off the dribble, drawing the foul while converting the layup.
On the ensuing possession, the Magic had a chance to cut the deficit to one or tie the game. With Andre Iguodala defending him, J.J. Redick executed a backdoor cut, Josh McRoberts delivered a perfect pass, but Redick missed the reverse layup.
Orlando continued to dig themselves a hole by allowing a wide open dunk to Danilo Gallinari on a baseline out-of-bounds play shortly thereafter. Arron Afflalo, who had a forgettable night in his first game back in Denver since being traded to Orlando in the Dwight Howard blockbuster, lost track of Gallinari defensively.
Afflalo compounded the mistake by missing a lefty layup on the next play. Gallinari found himself switched onto Afflalo on the perimeter and did a good job of contesting the layup. Kenneth Faried corralled the rebound and was fouled, but missed both free-throws.
Trailing 104-99, Afflalo drilled a three-pointer from the right wing with 36.3 seconds remaining, keeping the Magic’s hopes alive of producing a come-from-behind victory.
But Iguodala responded by making a layup, increasing the Nuggets’ lead to 106-102 with 19.2 seconds left, and effective ending the game.
During their season-high 10-game losing streak, Orlando has had chances to win games in crunch time against not only Denver but also the Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Hornets, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Portland Trail Blazers. And a common theme emerged in those games: the Magic didn’t make enough plays at the end. A lack of execution has been Orlando’s downfall in recent weeks.
The Magic have also been unlucky. Orlando has now lost six games by margins of five or fewer during their losing streak.
It’s easy to pin the Magic’s losing streak on a lack of talent. In part, that’s exactly what it is. But it’s not been for a lack of trying.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
The “Manimal” was unleashed and there was not much the Magic could do to contain him. Kenneth Faried (19 points and 19 rebounds) was everywhere all over the court for the Nuggets, particularly in the fourth quarter.
Despite a lackluster performance, Andre Iguodala made his presence felt when it mattered most. With Denver clinging to a 104-102 lead, Iguodala’s layup with 19.2 seconds left extended the advantage to four and effectively ended the game.
That Was … a Model of Efficiency
The three most efficient shots in basketball are the layup, free-throw, and three-pointer. In related news, 102 of the Nuggets’ 108 points were in the paint, at the free-throw line, or beyond the arc. Not surprisingly, Denver won.