Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets Preview
In an interconference matchup tonight, the Denver Nuggets will host the Orlando Magic as we pass the first 1/3 mark of the NBA season. The Nuggets are still competitive in the Western Conference. They are in fourth place with a 17-8 record. The Nuggets have won their last three straight and are 5-5 in their last 10 games. They have been 11-3 at Pepsi Center this season.
Orlando is currently 8th in the Eastern Conference with a 12-15 record. They lost their last game and are also 5-5 in their last ten. They are 4-9 on the road and will be looking to improve that record tonight.
This will be the final game of the season series between the Nuggets and Magic. Denver won the first matchup on November 2 91-87. The Nuggets were led by Jamal Murray’s 22 points. Nikola Vucevic had 24 for the Magic.
Time: 9 PM ET
Arena: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Channel: FSFL, ALT
Magic: Al-Farouq Aminu (O)
Nuggets: Paul Millsap (Q)
Orlando Magic Starting Lineup
The Orlando Magic have struggled to find some consistency lately, but a lot of that could be due to center Nikola Vucevic missing 11 games and Khem Birch having to step in as the starter.
Vucevic’s return comes at a good time, as the Magic have a tough matchup in Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. The Magic are also hoping to have some help off the bench from Mo Bamba.
“That’s what coach harps on me about, just getting out there and just adding a spark,” Bamba said recently.
In their 109-102 loss to the Utah Jazz last night, it was DJ Augustin coming off the bench to provide the spark with 22 points. Evan Fournier added 19, Markelle Fultz had14 points and Vucevic finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Jazz had trouble containing Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic and big man Rudy Gobert controlled the boards with 19, something the Magic will hope to minimize against Denver’s frontcourt tonight.
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
The NBA schedule-makers were not kind to the Denver Nuggets in putting together their schedule prior to Christmas. The Nuggets have been playing over a rough stretch, but they’ve won their last three and now hope to get some rest for their starters as their schedule gets back to normalcy.
“We just finished up eight games in 12 days, crazy stretch,” coach Mike Malone said. “If I’m playing Gary Harris 37, 38 minutes, that’s not going to be good for him long term. I have to get back to also giving other guys a chance to play and trusting guys because I don’t want to wear us down in the middle of January.”
Malone’s team should look a little refreshed tonight as they have not played since Sunday, where they secured a 111-105 victory over the New York Knicks. The Nuggets scored 67 first-half points to put some pressure on the Knicks, who tried to rally in the third, but could not fully recover.
Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic led the way with 25 points and 10 rebounds as one of six Nuggets in double figures. Will Barton had 16 points, Gary Harris had 15 and Jamal Murray and Mason Plumlee finished with 14 apiece.
Michael Porter Jr., who was injured all last season had nine points and eight rebounds in just 11 minutes off the bench, showing the kind of depth the Nuggets have.
Key Player Matchups
Nikola Jokic vs. Nikola Vucevic
In a battle of two of the best Euro centers, also somehow both named Nikola, I’m going with Jokic tonight. Vucevic is still working his way back after injury and Jokic is looking strong. He would be a handful for any center, and it should make for a great matchup.
Jamal Murray vs. Markelle Fultz
Fultz, the former number one overall pick has still not quite reached the potential most expected when he was drafted out of the University of Washington, but he seems to be showing some real development and improvement with the Magic. He’s been given the starting nod and is averaging 11.7 points and 4.2 assists per game, both career highs. That said, he is going up against a tried and tested point guard in Jamal Murray tonight, so the Magic could possibly split minutes between Fultz and DJ Augustin tonight.
Nikola Vucevic and Nikola Jokic are your standouts for tonight’s game. Vucevic is really getting into major value territory with his FanDuel salary of $7k. He is projected to finish with 41 points, while Jokic is available for $9.1k with a 48-point projection.
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