Playoff-bound Nuggets welcome Magic to the Rockies
(Sports Network) - Fresh off clinching their ninth consecutive playoff berth the Denver Nuggets will host an Orlando Magic team trying to find its way without superstar center Dwight Howard.
The Nuggets punched their ticket to the postseason with an impressive 118-107 win over Phoenix in the desert on Saturday.
Ty Lawson put on a show at US Airways Center in that one, pouring in a season- high 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting, including a 5- of-5 effort from three- point range. The diminutive point guard also doled out 10 assists while committing just one turnover.
His effort, along with Kenneth Faried's 18 points and 14 rebounds, assured the Nuggets a ninth straight playoff appearance, matching a franchise record.
Denver is currently tied with the Mavericks for the No. 6 position in the Western Conference standings with three games to play. Dallas has just one game remaining and owns the tiebreaker, however.
"Ty (Lawson) was special tonight," Nuggets head coach George Karl said. "Tonight he was on and really motoring."
The Magic, meanwhile, lost their first game since officially learning that Howard will be unavailable for the rest of the season, a 117-107 overtime loss in Salt Lake City against the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson tallied 21 points apiece for playoff-bound Orlando, which is currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and is just 3-6 without Howard.
"We just cannot guard, we cannot," Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I don't think it is that our guys are not trying, I don't know what it is, but we cannot guard anyone...Our defense is disturbing to say the least."
Howard underwent surgery Friday to repair a herniated disc and remove fragments in his back.
"I think we've been operating with the expectation that we wouldn't have him back," Van Gundy said. "I don't think this was unexpected."
Denver has won seven of its last eight home games against Orlando.