Just when Orlando started to think it might be regaining its groove on the offensive end with the return of point guard Elfrid Payton, the injury bug hit again. Sidelined with a sore hamstring, Payton sat out Saturday’s game against the Denver Nuggets (8-5) and the Magic started reverting back to its struggling ways.

Without its floor general, Orlando fell behind 70-47 by halftime and were downed 125-107 by Denver on the road at the Pepsi Center on Saturday night. The loss snaps what was a brief two-game winning streak for Orlando. The Magic will have Sunday off before heading to Oracle Arena to face the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors (10-3).

”To have a good team you need a bench who will come in and do all the gritty work,” Orlando forward Marreese Speights said. ”We wanted to come back and get the win. The group out there was playing hard. We just came up short.”

Speights came off the bench for Orlando and certainly did his part, as the St. Petersburg native scored 19 points and was the leading scorer for the Magic (8-5). Fellow bench player Jonathan Simmons also contributed 18 points, with Evan Fournier being the only starter to break 14 points or better.

Denver on the other hand had no such troubles when it came to getting contributions from players in double digit scoring, with Jamal Murray jumping in and dropping 32 points for the Nuggets. Will Barton added 26 points on the evening.

Orlando’s inability to control the painted area was an issue all evening, as Denver out-rebounded the Magic 50-36. Slowing down the likes of center Nikola Jokic and power forward Paul Millsap, whom combined for 25 rebounds between the two.

Now the Magic will head to Oakland to face arguably the NBA’s best team in the Warriors. Golden State is coming off a 135-114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers. The game tomorrow night is slated for a 10:30 p.m. tip-off.

About The Author

Andy Villamarzo has covered high school and youth sports for the Tampa Bay Times and The Tampa Tribune as a correspondent since 2008. He is a native of Holiday, FL, who graduated from Gulf High School and studied at St. Petersburg College. He has covered various prep, collegiate and professional athletes throughout his writing career, including Josh Johnson (Jacksonville Jaguars), Patrick Schuster (Arizona Diamondbacks) and currently writes for other publications like The Suncoast News, Friday Night Football Magazine and TopDrawerSoccer.com.

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