Orlando at Denver
Time: 8 PM (CT), NBA LP
Spread: DEN -8
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Orlando Magic opened its Western Conference road trip last night with a 128-112 victory over the Phoenix Suns. It was Orlando’s highest-scoring game of the 2017-18 season, but now it faces the Denver Nuggets on the second night of a back-to-back. Denver is 8-point favorites at the Pepsi Center, in a game with a (very) high over/under of 220 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Orlando will need to rely on its depth in digging deep tonight against a high-octane Denver offense. The Magic were able to curtail its starters’ minutes last night in an easy victory, as only Aaron Gordon and Shelvin Mack saw more than 30 minutes in the game. Gordon scored 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his 31 minutes, and Mack was good for nine points and six assists while posting +15 for his 31 minutes of court time.
The Magic shot 13 of 28 from three-point range and had 29 assists on its 43 made field goals. Orlando has been questioned by experts as to whether the team can maintain its torrid shooting, but last night seemed to answer those questions in an affirmative, as Nikola Vucevic shot 3 of 6 from downtown, and Terrence Ross hit 4 of 5. Evan Fournier had a tougher night in going 0 of 7, but he made 5 of his 7 two-point field goals to finish with 14 points and four assists. Fournier has stepped up into the role of an alpha dog, and he has by and large succeeded as the team’s best finisher and best three-point threat.
Fournier is averaging 20 points per game on 50 percent shooting while hitting 42.9 percent from three. He has scored 20 points or more in three of the past five contests, and the Magic are 6-3 when Fournier tallies 20 points or more in a game. At age 25, Fournier is just entering his prime, and several Magic players are not even on the cusp of doing so. Aaron Gordon is just 22 years old, but is also having a career year with 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.00 blocks/steals per game.
The Magic have more depth than may have been anticipated, which has allowed the team to bring on rookie Jonathan Isaac slowly. The former Florida State Seminole is seeing just 20 minutes a night, but has averaged 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds, while looking very aware and mature while on the court. The Magic’s return of Elfrid Payton assures to only pay dividends, and he had 11 points and 11 assists in returning to the starting lineup last night. Payton is a dynamic point guard with an oft-criticized jumpshot, but he can create like no other Magic player.
Combining that with the steady play of Mack and D.J. Augustin gives Orlando a well-rounded backcourt capable of stepping up to many challenges. Mack, while not a statistical demon, is great at maintaining the pace of a game and makes few mistakes. Newly acquired forward Jonathon Simmons can be a game changer on both ends, and he has averaged 14.9 points per game off the Orlando bench, looking very much like a Sixth Man of the Year contender. There are just so many pieces falling into place for the 8-4 Magic, but Denver will pose a serious challenge tonight as a team capable of really filling up the scoring column in its own right.
Denver is 7-5 and 5-2 at the Pepsi Center this year. The Nuggets have won two-straight games over the Brooklyn Nets and Oklahoma City Thunder, both at home. Denver center Nikola Jokic is appearing to be one of the league’s best young 5s, with 17.7 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in just 30.6 minutes a night.
The Nuggets offense largely runs through Jokic, though Denver has no shortage of solid guards and wing players. Paul Millsap seems to be a perfect fit alongside Jokic, and the All-Star has made Denver his home with 15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.33 blocks/steals per game. Swingman Will Barton could potentially be a star, and Jokic said “Thrill” (Barton) deserves the attention when it comes to “famous Nuggets.” Barton has averaged 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and three assists while posting a PER of 16.5.
The Nuggets also round its rotation out with three more double-figure scorers in Gary Harris, Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray. Murray has replaced Mudiay as the team’s point guard of the future, and though the Kentucky product averages just 2.7 assists per game, it is still an offense predicated on putting the ball in Jokic’s hands.
Denver averages 24.2 assists per game and has a 1.6 A/TO ratio, as it maintains a scoring average of 106.2 points per game. Expect this to be a high scoring affair, but Orlando will struggle to keep pace being on the second night of a back to back. The fact Orlando was able to rest its starters often last night against Phoenix, though, does mitigate the fatigue effect a little.