Gordon scored Denver’s first dozen points, then helped the Nuggets erase an 18-point halftime deficit for their 14th win in 17 games and their 10th straight over the Magic.
Denver coach Michael Malone said before tip-off that he didn’t have to give Gordon any advice about keeping his emotions in check going against his former team that dealt him to Denver last week after seven seasons in Orlando.
”I haven’t gotten the sense from Aaron that he’s hyped up more because it’s Orlando than he was for Atlanta or Philly or the Clippers. I don’t get the sense that he’s that type of guy,” Malone said. ”I haven’t said anything to him. What I tell our entire group is that this game is all about us.
”If we think we can just show up because we’re playing a team that doesn’t have maybe a marquee name, we’re going to find ourselves in a ballgame.”
They sure did.
The Nuggets trailed by double digits for most of the first half, and after cutting their deficit to 54-47, they surrendered the final 11 points of the second quarter and trailed 65-47 at halftime.
Denver erased all of that in the third quarter, but Ross put Orlando back on top 86-85 with a jumper in the closing seconds.
But the Nuggets pulled away in the final minutes for their fourth consecutive win since the big trade for Gordon.
Magic coach Steve Clifford called his team’s injury epidemic ”like nothing I’ve ever been through before as a head coach or an assistant.” Sidelined against Denver were: Cole Anthony (ribs), Michael Carter-Williams (non-COVID illness), Markelle Fultz (left ACL), Harris (strained left adductor), Karim Mane (hamstring) and Otto Porter Jr. (left foot). Limited were Chasson Randle (hamstring), James Ennis III (non-COVID-illness) and Mo Bamba (non-COVID illness).
Nuggets: The Nuggets played a video tribute to Harris in the second quarter, which earned him a standing ovation from the 4,050 fans at Ball Arena in the first game open to the public since before the pandemic hit last year (employees and front-line workers were at last game). Hampton, a rookie, got his video tribute later in the quarter. … Denver was outshot in the first half 57 percent to 39 percent.
Magic: Hosts the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
Nuggets: Host the Detroit Pistons and former teammates Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee on Tuesday night.
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