DENVER — This result was predictable.
Already playing bad basketball, the Orlando Magic faced the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night without two of their best players, injured shooting guard Arron Afflalo and injured center Nik Vucevic.
The Magic were playing their second game in two nights. They had arrived at their Denver hotel around 3 in the morning after they flew in from Sacramento and lost an hour with the time-zone change.
And don’t forget the altitude.
With so many things working against them — and with so many convenient excuses — the Magic were crushed by the Nuggets 120-94 at Pepsi Center.
“We gave what we had,” coach Jacque Vaughn said.
Making it worse: Jameer Nelson left in the third quarter because of a painful right index finger and didn’t return to the game. The veteran point guard said he injured his finger several games ago and couldn’t bend it after halftime Saturday.
X-rays showed no fractures, and team officials labeled the injury as a sprain.
“I’ll just listen to my body, and hopefully the pain goes away a little bit by tomorrow,” Nelson said.
The Magic (10-27) struggled even when Nelson played against the Nuggets (19-17).
Denver scored 12 consecutive points during the latter half of the first quarter to take a double-digit lead. The Nuggets never looked back.
They made 51 percent of their shots, including 12 of their 28 3-point attempts.
"[I'm] happy with the fact that our guys didn't let their guard down against this team tonight," Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said. "Based on the situation and the injuries they're having to deal with and them going through a bad streak right now, I challenged our team to show some killer instinct tonight."
Vaughn and the Magic knew the Nuggets would play at a fast pace.
Ty Lawson, Denver’s lightning-fast point guard, led the charge, just like he always does. He bedeviled Orlando by scoring 16 points and distributing eight assists.
The defeat extended the Magic’s losing streak to seven consecutive games — their longest losing streak so far this season.
Afflalo sat out because he injured his right ankle and foot less than 24 hours earlier in Sacramento, while Vucevic missed his third straight game because of a concussion.
Afflalo’s absence deprived Orlando of its best scorer and best shooter.
Vucevic’s injury depleted Orlando’s rebounding and shot-blocking.
Even Maurice Harkless, who replaced Afflalo in the starting lineup, was limited to 17 minutes because of a sore knee.
“It’s real frustrating just because first off we’ve been losing,” said forward Tobias Harris, who scored a game-high 22 points. “Secondly, a lot of our guys are hurt right now. So, for us as a team, we just have to stay together and stay positive.”
During Friday’s loss to the Kings, Glen Davis made just four of the 12 shots he attempted.
In Denver, he was determined to shoot himself out of his slump — and he did, finishing with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
“I think he really had some good looks tonight,” Vaughn said. “They went in. The shots he had in Sacramento — same shots, exact same shots, same play calls. It went in tonight. But I love that he was persistent in taking the right shots.”
Rookie guard Victor Oladipo scored 15 points, dished out five assists and had three turnovers.
During the second quarter, Denver forward Kenneth Faried poked the ball away from Oladipo, dribbled down the court and delivered a highlight-reel slam as Oladipo fouled him. The score put the Nuggets ahead 60-34.
But Oladipo exacted a measure of revenge on the ensuing possession. He drove down the center of the lane, absorbed contact from Faried and scored on a layup. Faried wound up on the floor, and Oladipo shot him a glare before Oladipo made the free throw.
The sequence cut Denver’s lead to 60-37.
It was one of the Magic’s few uplifting moments.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun