Denver (41-27) at Orlando (43-26)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Thursday, Mar 17, 2011 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EDT Fri Mar 18, 2011

What the Denver Nuggets lack in star power, they are making up for with unselfish play.

Sloppy ball movement has been a problem for the Orlando Magic recently.

The Nuggets will try for their fifth straight win Friday night when they try to sweep the season series with the Magic for the first time in 19 years.

Denver (41-27) improved to 9-2 since trading Carmelo Anthony(notes) and Chauncey Billups(notes) last month after a 102-87 win over Atlanta on Wednesday. While Wilson Chandler(notes) had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double since being acquired in that deal, Nene led the Nuggets with 20 points and J.R. Smith(notes) scored all 15 of his in the fourth quarter.

Denver shot better than 53 percent for a third consecutive game and had at least five players score in double figures for a fourth straight. The Nuggets have averaged 108.6 points and 25.8 assists since Anthony and Billups were dealt to New York. Before the move, they were averaging 21.2 assists.

“It’s fun to play basketball the right way,” forward Kenyon Martin(notes) said. “It always has been, always will be. When everybody’s out there sharing the ball, everybody’s involved, it just makes everyone want to play that much harder on the defensive end.”

Martin has helped Denver hold its last 10 opponents to an average of 94.1 points, nearly 10 better than its season mark.

Smith has stepped up offensively, going 17 of 29 from 3-point range the last three games while averaging 21.3 points - his season average is 11.9.

Before closing its four-game road trip Saturday at Miami, the Nuggets look for their first season sweep of the Magic since winning both meetings in 1991-92. They beat Orlando 111-94 at home Dec. 14.

While improved ball movement without Anthony has helped Denver get within 3 1/2 games of Northwest Division-leading Oklahoma City, Orlando (43-26) has been hurt by sloppy ball-handling and is 3 1/2 back of Miami for the Southeast lead.

The Magic completed a 3-2 road trip with a 93-89 overtime win at Milwaukee on Wednesday, clinching their fifth straight playoff appearance.

The win was their third in seven games. Each victory was against a team currently under .500, and three of the four losses were to teams with winning records.

Orlando had 19 turnovers Wednesday and is committing 16.7 per game this month - two more than its season average. The Magic were 20 of 35 at the free-throw line against the Bucks and finished the road trip shooting 62.4 percent at the line, dropping their league-worst average to 69.1.

“The only thing that matters is we got a win,” said Dwight Howard(notes), who had 31 points and 22 rebounds but missed 11 of his 24 free-throw attempts. “Are we satisfied with the way we won the game? No, but we won the game. That’s all that matters.”

Howard is averaging 26.3 points and 17.3 rebounds the last three games. However, he’s averaged 15.8 points in the last four games against the Nuggets, and Orlando lost three of them.

The Magic failed to score more than 85 points in their last two home games - both losses - but are 19-3 all-time at home against Denver.

Related Articles

Team Stat Leaders



Friday, Mar 18