In Cole Anthony, the Magic trust as they embark on 5-game stretch vs. West teams

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  • Denver Nuggets
    Denver Nuggets
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  • Orlando Magic
    Orlando Magic
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  • Cole Anthony
    Cole Anthony
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The blue blur that streaked past midcourt at the Amway Center on Wednesday night was Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony.

Anthony had laid himself out to corral a loose ball in the second half against the Denver Nuggets. It was a typical hustle play and one that everyone has become accustomed to seeing.

It’s something that’s been missing from the Magic (5-18) when Anthony was out of the lineup six games while recovering from a sprained right ankle. It was evident against the Nuggets (10-11), particularly in the second half, where he scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in leading Orlando to a 108-103 win.

“Cole’s energy, his intensity and his will to push guys and those guys rallied around him and he supported them, so he had a great impact with us,” said coach Jamahl Mosley.

The win snapped a seven-game losing streak dating to Nov. 17.

Orlando shot 27.3% in the first quarter but made up for it — and a 16-point deficit — by shooting 64.4% over the final three quarters. Anthony started 1-for-4 (25%) for 2 points but finished 9 of 17 (53%) for 22 points.

“It’s one thing to watch the game. It’s another to play the game,” said Anthony. “I’ve been watching a bunch of film and watching the team play a lot trying to dissect the game, but once you’re out there playing, it’s a little different story.

“It took me a second to get that going and once I got going, it’s all good, man.”

The Magic averaged an NBA-worst 95.8 points while shooting 39% from the floor during Anthony’s absence. Before his injury, he averaged 19.6 points with 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

“I was really upset at the time I got hurt, too, because we had just beat the Knicks and we should have beaten the Brooklyn Nets. I thought we were starting to figure it out and I get hurt,” said Anthony. “I want to get out there and help my brothers. That was the main thing. I was able to do that tonight and we were able to get a win, so that’s cool stuff right there.”

Wendell Carter Jr. had 18 points and 8 rebounds, and he had a key bucket at 4:34 on a layup over Nikola Jokic to cut the deficit to 99-97. The feed came from Anthony.

“He’s very important [to us],” Carter said. “He demands a lot of attention on the offensive end. He makes the right play. He has that clutch gene. He wants to go out there and he wants to take those final shots. When you have a player like that, we got to find ways to get him the ball.”

Anthony had 8 points in the final quarter, but 2 late rebounds helped the Magic earn their second home win. It was their first in almost a month.

“He stepped up big-time and made a couple of huge shots for us and that’s what we need him to do,” said forward Franz Wagner, who had 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting. “In those last couple minutes, we want the ball in his hands.”

Orlando begins a five-game, 11-day trip that kicks off against Houston on Friday. They also play at the Golden State Warriors (Dec. 6), Sacramento Kings (Dec. 8), Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 11) and Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 12).

The Rockets entered Thursday as a five-win team, too. The Magic will be underdogs against everyone else.

Having Anthony back gives them a chance to compete.

“With it being his first game back, we wanted to get him going,” Carter said. “Not just for tonight, but future games.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Matt Murschel at mmurschel@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.