DENVER (AP)—Even Rocky the Mascot was feeling it on this night.
The shot of the night belonged to Rocky—the cute little mountain lion— who lined up at halfcourt during a timeout and chucked one in backward over his head, then went body surfing into the crowd to celebrate.
The Nuggets weren’t bad either—running, cutting, passing, shooting 48.8 percent and falling just two points short of their highest-scoring game of the season.
“When you get stops, rebound the ball, get it out and everyone is committed to running and sharing, good things happen,” coach Jeff Bzdelik said.
Dwight Howard and Steve Francis led the Magic with 23 points apiece. Grant Hill added 20 for Orlando, which came into the opener of its six-game road trip with the best record in the Eastern Conference and played hard all night despite falling behind by 25 in the second quarter.
“We fell behind in the first half and we had to scramble all night to try and get it done,” Magic coach Johnny Davis said. “Against this team, or any team for that matter, you can’t come out and give up that kind of lead and hope to be successful.”
For the second straight game after an abominable performance in their 92-73 loss to Cleveland, the Nuggets looked committed to pushing the pace, and the results were obvious.
Denver scored 68 points in the first half, the most in a half this season. Kenyon Martin kicked things off by scoring 10 of Denver’s first 14 points; his 23 points were one short of a season high, and he also had 12 rebounds. Miller went 14-for-14 from the line en route to his season high. He also had seven rebounds and seven assists.
“This is the way we envisioned the offense,” Anthony said.
The Magic played without Tony Battie, who was serving a one-game suspension for elbowing Pao Gasol of the Grizzlies in a game Saturday. Kelvin Cato left in the third quarter after taking a nasty fall on his left hand on a play in which he was called for an offensive foul. He is expected to miss some time. Francis and Howard were both battling colds.
“We missed Tony, we missed Cato,” Francis said. “They had a lot of dunks in the middle and easy layups. That’s something that is correctable.”
The Nuggets played the second half without Marcus Camby, whose left knee swelled up, the result of an injury Saturday against Miami. Bzdelik said Camby should be fine for the start of Denver’s seven-game road trip—the longest of the season—beginning Wednesday in Washington.
Denver played 13 of its first 17 at home and stands at 10-7—not quite where it wants to be at this point, but with a two-game winning streak and playing much better than just a few nights ago.
“We have to have the same mentality on the road,” Martin said. “This is an important road trip.”
Bzdelik said the Nuggets are strongly considering bringing in another point guard during their road trip. Miller and Earl Boykins currently play the point. … Battie wasn’t allowed in the arena, so he stayed in the hotel and had to listen to the game on radio because the hotel didn’t carry the cable channel that televised the game. … With Magic assistant Paul Westhead in the building, the Nuggets had three former head coaches on hand: Westhead, TV color commentator Bill Hanzlik and consultant Doug Moe. … The Nuggets improved to 6-1 against the Eastern Conference.