EditorsNote: Resending per client’s request
Nuggets rout Magic to cap strong homestand
DENVER — Michael Malone took Jamal Murray aside after a shootaround this week and gave his young point guard a pep talk.
“I told him, ‘I want you to be aggressive,’” the Denver Nuggets coach recounted. “Murray passive doesn’t do us anything. When Jamal Murray comes out playing with pace, playing with aggression, looking for his offense, that’s the Jamal Murray we fell in love with last year.”
Murray took the message to heart and delivered a signature performance.
Murray scored a career-high 32 points, Will Barton had season highs with 26 points and nine rebounds, and the Nuggets beat the Orlando Magic 125-107 on Saturday night.
Nikola Jokic had 12 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Denver (8-5), which finished its homestand 5-1. Paul Millsap added 16 points, eight rebounds and a season-high eight assists to go along with Murray’s career night.
“I was just playing basketball,” Murray said. “Coach told me to be aggressive. Tonight I was hitting and they kept finding me.”
Marreese Speights had 19 points and Evan Fournier and Jonathon Simmons scored 18 points each for the Magic (8-5), who played without point guard Elfrid Payton and his backup, D.J. Augustin. Both were out with left hamstring injuries.
The Magic got a little thinner when rookie Jonathan Isaac went down with a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter. He was helped off the court and had an X-ray, which was negative, and he left the arena in a walking boot.
“He sprained it,” coach Frank Vogel said.
Murray made a career-high six 3-pointers and finished 12 of 21 from the field. He had nine of his 16 points in a 13-0 Denver run late in the first quarter when the Nuggets took a 35-19 lead.
The advantage grew to 52-26 when Orlando managed just one field goal in the first 6:03 of the second quarter. Murray hit two more 3-pointers in the period when Denver led by as many as 27 and 70-47 at intermission.
The Magic were coming off a win in Phoenix on Friday night and couldn’t match Denver’s energy.
“We just didn’t come out with the energy we needed. They played well, they were making shots. Defensively we just were tough enough tonight,” Aaron Gordon said. “Back-to-backs are always difficult to play, but we pride ourselves on performing well in back-to-backs. The altitude is difficult but not sure how much of a factor it was.”
The lead was 30 in the third quarter but the Magic rallied to cut it to 13 in the fourth before Denver responded with a 10-0 run.
Murray passed his season high of 26 points with a 3-pointer early in the third quarter and eclipsed his career high with an 11-foot jumper with 2:57 left.
“We were being very unselfish and it was my night tonight,” Murray said.
Jokic provided some drama early in the second quarter when, after missing two shots at the rim, he fouled Bismack Biyombo hard. He patted Biyombo on the chest and then rushed to argue with the official after drawing a technical.
Teammate Wilson Chandler stepped in to calm him. Jokic then threw a half-court alley-oop to Kenneth Faried, who reached high put it down with one hand to give the Nuggets a 43-26 lead.
“It’s fun,” Faried said. “That’s what I do. I love to bring the crowd to their feet and give them excitement.”
Four nights after outscoring Brooklyn’s starters 41-40, Jokic outrebounded Orlando’s starting five 17-12.
“Nothing he does surprises me,” Malone said.
NOTES: Denver’s 70 points in the first half were a season high for either half. ... Orlando coach Frank Vogel said the team is being cautious with PG Elfrid Payton in not playing him Saturday night. Payton missed eight games earlier this season with a left hamstring injury and the Magic didn’t want to play him on consecutive nights. “We’re just being smart,” Vogel said. “One thing he hasn’t done since he’s been back is playing in a back-to-back.” ... Nuggets G Gary Harris didn’t play because of a shoulder injury but coach Michael Malone would not reveal if it is a one-game situation or if Harris will miss extended time. “It’s a shoulder injury,” Malone said. ... Orlando G D.J. Augustin (left hamstring) missed his fifth straight game.