It’s a good thing the Denver Nuggets were still suffering from jet lag. Otherwise their 125-112 victory over the Orlando Magic on Monday at the Pepsi Center could have been worse.
Denver piled up 69 points on the Magic by halftime, then blew away Orlando in the third quarter to take a 100-83 lead into the final period. The only thing left to decide was the final outcome.
The Nuggets were playing their first game since returning from Thursday’s game in London against the Indiana Pacers. If it makes the Magic feel any better, the Nuggets torched the Pacers for 140 points in that game, winning by 28 points.
“Can you push all that tiredness and fatigue and jet lag out of your mind,” Denver Coach Michael Malone said before the game.
He got his answer quickly.
This game marks another setback for an Orlando team that played two consecutive solid road games in Portland and Utah. They beat the Blazers on Friday night before suffering a close loss to the Jazz on Saturday.
The Nuggets looked nothing like a team that was 15-23 entering the game. Denver seemingly scored at will, shooting 58 percent on the night.
The Magic shot 51 percent, but could not keep up with the high-flying Nuggets. Nikola Jokic scored a career-high 30 points to lead Denver.
Orlando was led by Elfrid Payton, who scored 20 points and dished out 12 assists. Nikola Vucevic added 17.
“They got it going early and they were getting a lot of dribble penetration,” said Payton.
That penetration either led to layups or dishes to teammates for easy shots.
The loss marked the fourth setback in five games on their current road trip. The trip concludes on Wednesday night in New Orleans against the Pelicans, who could be missing one of the NBA’s best players.
Anthony Davis took a hard fall in the third quarter on Monday in Indianapolis and did not return. His status for Wednesday’s game is not yet known.
The Magic have now slipped to 17-26 on the season and are in danger of falling completely out of playoff contention. If Payton is accurate, his team knows that Wednesday’s game could be important toward saving their season.
“We’ve got to do it,” Payton said. “We’ve got to come out with a greater sense of urgency.”
We’ll find out in two days whether his teammates share his urgency.