Game Preview: Nuggets at Magic

When the Nuggets go to Orlando it will be a reunion of sorts. But with Al Harrington targeting a mid-December from knee surgery, Arron Afflalo is the only former teammate they’ll face on the court. It is the Magic’s opening game, and after having traded Dwight Howard, who for years has been the center of their universe, it’s really up in the air how they will look coming out of the gates.

Most analysts have predicted a fairly dismal season for this rebuilding Orlando team. But this is not a game the Nuggets can afford to take lightly. Through its preseason games and opener, Denver has not shown any noticeable improvement in perimeter defense despite the addition of Andre Iguodala. Weak defense of the arc could prove to be an Achilles heel against the Magic, whose (arguably) three best players – Afflalo, J.J. Reddick and Jameer Nelson – and those who they’ll be relying most heavily on for offensive production, are all very capable 3-point shooters.

One of the most intriguing – and frustrating for many fans – storylines from Denver’s first game against the Philadelphia 76ers is the fact that George Karl pulled Kenneth Faried out of the game less than two minutes into the second half, never to see the court again. In explaining the benching, Karl made what on its face is a pretty flimsy excuse about Faried not being the “best option” in catch-up situations. (Note to self: Research Faried’s +/- in stretches of games where Denver came back from deficits… Hypothesis: Plus). The fact that 6 foot 9 Glen Davis starts at power forward and can no longer take cover in Dwight’s imposing shadow presents Faried with a potentially favorable matchup.

Nuggets fans have been waiting for Iguodala to have his first big impact game with the Nuggets. Rookie Moe Harkless is unlikely to play due to a hip injury, meaning that Hedo Turkoglu and Afflalo will probably play most of Orlando’s minutes at the 3, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Karl-style small ball action from the Magic. Iguodala should be able to use his athleticism to get to the rim at will against his less athletic and/or smaller defenders.

Benjamin Hochman tweeted that Danilo Gallinari should be back from his ankle injury. Hopefully his return can bring a semblance of order to the slopfest the Nuggets were putting on display against Philly.

Overall, facing an opponent with a recently dismantled roster who themselves are far yet from knowing their identity as a team, this game is a really great chance for the Nuggets to whip into shape some of the areas they’ve been struggling to pull together – team defense, limiting turnovers, team chemistry in general. And realistically, given that the following game is in Miami, it’s their best chance to ensure they don’t go back to Denver having opened the season with three goose eggs.

The game is at 5pm/MT at Amway Center, Orlando, FL, on Altitude.


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Joel is a long time Denver Nuggets (and Broncos) fan from Colorado who's been living in Japan since the mid-90s, and blogging about the Nuggets since 2008. You can contact and follow him on Twitter: @denbutsu.
  • Mitch

    9 shots in 17 minutes was probably why Faried got yanked. I didn’t see the first half so I don’t know in what context those shots were taken but he isn’t in there for his offense.

  • JetLife82

    Hoping to see Moz and Randolph play in this one. And Fournier too for that matter. Lastly I hope Chandler Parsons’ foot doesn’t see any court time for the Magic.

    • John

      I can guarantee that Parsons doesn’t play against the Nuggets tonight… since he plays for Houston. Just yanking your chain, Jet.

  • Greg

    Does anyone else feel like a Wilson Chandler for Paul Millsap trade would be beautiful for both teams. I know its in division but we need a better big and the jazz would get a talented wing that is locked up for another 5 years. I still feel like Wilson can help this team but Paul would be more impactful and then Faried could come off the bench, a role I think he would be very good at. Thoughts?

    • j_kobbie

      I think Wilson would have to be 100% and have a few stellar performances this year before the Jazz would bite…

  • KW

    AAA is going to make us pay. 28+ for AAA tonight. He knows we don’t guard the perimeter.

  • JetLife82

    The Nuggets look horrible this year. Down like 20 at halftime against the Magic. I’m disgusted right now…

  • j_kobbie

    I don’t get it…

    For the second time the Nuggets look sloppy, slow, and flat footed. Nobody is jumping other than on ball fakes.

    Nelson throws a half court lob that is in the air for 2 seconds and neither Gallo or Koufos leave the floor nor attempt to block out for a rebound… they just meekly turn and watch.

    Nobody boxes out or fights for position down low…. they just assume they can out jump everyone… but so far that has not been the case… and everyone’s timing seems off.

    Passing is turribull…. slow and telegraphed, not crisp and without thought

    Offense is anemic…

    Defense looks slightly better tonight against Orlando(at least during the 3rd Q), but the Nuggs are still getting out hustled…

    Faried and McGee continue to look lost on both offense and defense.

    Koufos looks slightly better but he needs work on his hands(both on catching passes and corralling rebounds)… lowering his base,keeping position and boxing out.

    Chandler and Gallo were obviously not working with legs that were 100%.. neither had much lift… Chandler almost airballed 2 freethrows..

    and for the second game in a row the Nuggets were completely dominated by a second and maybe even a third tier big in Big Baby and Spencer Hawes…

    I am not freaking out yet… but things do not look good.