Shorthanded, cold-shooting Magic struggle in loss to NuggetsFeb 12, 2009 - 5:14 AM ORLANDO, Florida (Ticker) -- Without their All-Star floor general to run the show, the Orlando Magic suddenly look decidedly more vulnerable. And not even a late 3-point flurry Wednesday night could overcome an ugly showing.
The Magic slipped to 2-2 since Nelson went down with a torn labrum in his shoulder, as the Denver Nuggets continued to roll along on their eight-game road trip with a 82-73 victory.
"We got dominated, plain and simple," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "There wasn't one guy that could make a difference on the floor."
With the win, the Nuggets improved to 4-1 on their Eastern Conference swing - their longest road trip of the season.
"It was a big win for us momentum-wise and confidence-wise," Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony said.
For the Magic, it was a night to forget. They couldn't get anything to fall for most of the game, catching fire in fits and starts near the end of the third and fourth quarters. They managed just 29 first-half points.
But it wasn't quite enough. All-Star forward Rashard Lewis buried three 3-pointers in a 2 1/2-minute span in the final session to cut Orlando's deficit to six but, with 54 seconds remaining, misfired from the arc with a chance to cut that margin in half. Lewis grabbed the long rebound and got the ball to Mickael Pietrus, whose off-balance attempt from long range rolled in and out of the basket.
"They (the Magic) gave a tremendous effort," Van Gundy said of his team's late rally. "I give them a lot of credit."
Carmelo Anthony scored 29 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, as he provided practically all the offense down the stretch for the Nuggets as they held off Orlando's late rally. The Magic shot just 30 percent (21-of-69) on the night, including 9-of-31 from the arc.
For a while, though, it looked even worse for the Southeast Division leaders.
They managed just 12 points in a miserable second quarter in which they went 3-of-18 from the floor and committed seven turnovers, including a shot-clock violation. For a group that has never been shy to shoot the ball, that may have been indicative of just how out-of-sync the Magic are without their point guard.
"It was a bad game; we definitely have to bounce back," Lewis said. "We still feel that we are a great team we just have to adjust our focus."
Their 73 points in Wednesday's loss marked a season low by a long shot, easily eclipsing the previous low of 80 set in a January 22 loss to the reigning champion Boston Celtics.
"We did a good job running them off of the 3-point line," Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups said. "When you have so many games, you find ways to motivate yourself. They beat us pretty good at home and we didn't forget that."
Anthony Johnson, who has taken over in the starting lineup in Nelson's absence, had his roughest night as a starter in this one. He managed just one assist while finishing with four points on 1-of-5 shooting. That runs in stark contrast to his debut as a starter just one week ago, when he went for a season-high 25 points and buried six 3-pointers.
The intangible aspects that Nelson brought to the table - the way he balanced Orlando's aggressive outside shooters with Dwight Howard's inside game, his improved ability to attack the basket off the dribble - were nowhere to be found in Wednesday's loss.
Shots went up in a disordered fashion, Howard would go minutes at a time without getting the ball in good scoring position and turnovers - 23 of them, to be exact - were a problem.
"I thought the guys had a lot of passion to play," Nuggets head coach George Karl said. "The switching and messing with their pick and rolls was kind of how we wanted to go about it."
Tyronn Lue - who was recently acquired from Milwaukee to give Orlando some depth at the point in light of Nelson's injury - finally brought the Magic to within single digits with a 3-pointer early in the fourth. The Nuggets had gone cold, giving Orlando a brief window to make a run.
But Anthony was there for the response, drawing contact on Hedo Turkoglu and burying a pair of foul shots before stepping back one possession later for a 3-pointer. That pushed the Nuggets' lead to 68-54, providing just enough of a cushion to make the difference in the game's waning moments.
Howard finished with 16 points and 15 boards, but had just seven field-goal attempts and turned the ball over six times.
"In a strange way, we stayed connected with Dwight for most of the night," Karl said.
ORLANDO 73 FINAL
Feb 11 9:42 PM
ORLANDO 51 END, 3RD QTR
Feb 11 9:04 PM
ORLANDO 29 HALFTIME
Feb 11 8:16 PM
ORLANDO 17 END, 1ST QTR
Feb 11 7:41 PM
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