ORLANDO, Fla. (AP)—Maybe it was Disney World. Maybe it was the humidity. Or maybe they were just outmatched.
Whatever the reasons, the Denver Nuggets couldn’t leave Orlando with a win.
Carmelo Anthony had 29 points and eight rebounds, and the Nuggets ended a 15-game losing streak in Orlando with an 82-73 win over the Magic on Wednesday night.
“That’s crazy man,” said Denver guard Chauncey Billups, who was acquired from Detroit earlier this season. “I was a freshman in high school. That’s wild right there.”
Kenyon Martin scored 13 points, Nene added 12 and Billups had 11 points for Denver, which hadn’t won in Orlando since March 10, 1992. Even so, the skid didn’t seem to bother these Nuggets as much as being routed 106-88 by the Magic at home earlier this season.
“We knew that we hadn’t won here since ’92,” Martin said. “But I think the fact that they had their starters in when all our starters were out and they were up by a significant margin (in that first game), I think we kind of took it personal.”
Dwight Howard had 16 points and Rashard Lewis scored 12 for the Magic, who finished with a season low in points, a season-high 24 turnovers and were held to a season-low 30.4 percent shooting from the floor.
“We got absolutely dominated,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “Not one guy had a decent night offensively. Our starters, every single guy had three turnovers. We couldn’t even keep from getting the ball taken out of our hands. It was an embarrassing night for our players, for me, for everybody.”
The Nuggets built a 20-point lead early in the third quarter, but then things got testy.
Anthony and J.R. Smith each had technical fouls in the period, and the Magic used a heavy dose of free throws to cut the Nuggets’ lead to 63-51 heading into the fourth quarter.
Lewis hit a 3-pointer with 2:06 left to tighten Denver’s lead to 77-71, and the teams traded baskets before Denver clinched it with free throws.
But this one was about defense.
Playing physical and unafraid to foul, the Nuggets had Howard and Orlando frustrated all night. The 3-point shooting Magic were held to 9-for-31 from beyond the arc and struggled again to control the ball without All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson. He tore the labrum in his right shoulder Feb. 2 and is still deciding whether to have season-ending surgery or attempt rehabilitation.
The Magic’s previous high in turnovers this season was 19 against Minnesota on Dec. 3, and their previous low shooting percentage was 36.8 percent against Atlanta on Oct. 29.
“I’m not saying we’re going to be a defensive team,” Denver coach George Karl said. “But we didn’t have many corrections.”
The game was a sloppy from the start.
The teams combined for 14 turnovers, 14 fouls—plus a technical against Lewis for arguing a call—and an airball by Martin in the first quarter. The Magic were 1-for-5 from 3-point range in the period and struggled to get Howard involved early.
Smith’s jumper capped a 16-4 run that helped Denver take a 24-17 lead after the opening quarter. His 3-pointer ended the second quarter with the Nuggets on a 14-4 spurt, going ahead 46-29 at the half and sending the Magic to the locker room with a chorus of boos from the home crowd.
It was the fewest points Orlando scored in a first half all season. The previous lows came in a loss to Boston on Jan. 22, when they managed 36 first-half points and were held to 80 for the game.
The Southeast-divison leading Magic (38-13) took comfort afterward knowing they go into the All-Star break two games behind Boston and Cleveland for the Eastern Conference lead.
“Last time I checked we’re still in third place in the Eastern Conference,” Lewis said. “It was a bad game. We got to take these couple days off and come in Monday and refocus.”
Lewis spoke to the crowd on behalf of the team just before tipoff, thanking fans for their support throughout the first half of the season. … Nuggets backup center Chris Andersen missed the game with a left wrist sprain and left hip injury he suffered a night earlier at Miami, but expects to be ready after the All-Star break. … The Magic fell to 19-6 against the Western Conference this season, and the Nuggets improved to 14-6 against the East.