ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - The Orlando Magic trudged into their matchup with the streaking Denver Nuggets looking for the kind win that could provide much-needed momentum down the stretch of the regular season.
They may have found it.
Jameer Nelson swished a 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired to give the Magic an 85-82 win over the Nuggets on Friday night.
``It felt good when it left my hands,' said Nelson, who dribbled down the final seconds before rising up for the shot over Denver's Ty Lawson. ``I knew I had a great chance and y'all know I don't shy away from the last shot at all. I'm definitely willing to take the last shot - make or miss - and live with the results.'
The Magic led most of the final period, but struggled at the free throw line and let the Nuggets tie the game with 5.7 seconds to play. Orlando survived despite shooting just 37 percent from the field, its lowest percentage in a victory this season. It ended up just 20 for 31 from the line.
Dwight Howard had 16 points and 18 rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu had 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, while Nelson, Brandon Bass and Jason Richardson all had 13 points.
Wilson Chandler scored 20 points, Danilo Gallinari added 17 and Nene 14 for the Nuggets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped and lost for the 17th time in their last 18 trips to Orlando.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who was critical of his team's effort during a 3-2 West Coast road trip, showered it with praise Friday night. Orlando held Denver, who had been averaging 109 points and shooting 49 percent from the field in 11 games since dealing away Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups last month, to just 35 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3.
``It was a great effort,' Van Gundy said. ``You have to take way everything from the game. We made some mistakes, but I thought our guys made a (heck) of an effort today. All nine guys that played...did everything we could'
Aside from the loss, Nuggets' guard Raymond Felton also left in the final minute of the game with a left ankle injury. He had X-rays after the game that came back negative. Team officials said he is day-to-day. Nuggets coach George Karl said he was pleased overall, though, with how his team stayed in the game.
``Tough loss,' Karl said. ``...The guts of our team I thought was first class. Orlando makes you fight. I thought we did fight. Just came up a little short.'
The Magic survived poor shooting and a plethora of turnovers to take a four-point edge into the final period.
Orlando didn't shoot particularly well from the outside all night, but it found its range late. The problem was, so did the Nuggets.
A 3 by Chandler made it 80-78 and the Magic went inside to Howard, who was fouled and hit 1 of 2 free throws to push the lead back to 81-78.
It continued to be a free-throw contest the rest of the way.
Orlando failed to capitalize on a Denver turnover and Nene's two free throws cut the lead to a point. Bass was fouled underneath on the ensuing possession and, like Howard, could only convert on 1 of 2 to make it 82-80.
Turkoglu came up with an errant Nuggets' pass and was fouled in the frontcourt by Chandler with 14.2 seconds to play. But he missed both free-throw attempts and Denver called timeout after grabbing the rebound.
Turkoglu was then called for a foul on Gallinari with 5.7 left as he drove to the basket. He hit both free throws to set up the Magic's final shot.
Gallinari, who played his first game since Feb. 25 with a left big toe fracture, played 26 minutes Friday and said though he had good numbers he still has work to do to get back to 100 percent.
``I feel pretty good,' he said. ``I'll feel the discomfort for a bit, but I was feeling pretty good.'
Magic reserve Quentin Richardson, who played 21 minutes off the bench with guards Gilbert Arenas and J.J. Redick nursing injuries, said Friday's win should be a nice boost for Orlando before it hits the road.
``When you have things happen you're just able to persevere and grind it out or pull it out, no matter how you get it it's always good to show some resiliency in your team,' Richardson said. To show that we can pull different victories out in different ways. It's good to know that you can win like that.'
Notes: Arenas sat out Friday with a sore left knee and Redick with a lower abdominal strain. It was the sixth game Arenas has missed due to injury this season. Before Friday, Arenas had last missed a game on March 1 with the same condition. Redick missed his fifth straight game with the abs injury and sat out for the 11th time this season. ... Gallinari had missed consecutive eight games before returning Friday... Karl said that he will have minor surgery next week to remove a filter in his chest that prevents blood clots from going into his heart and lungs. Karl, whose throat and neck cancer is currently in remission, said he's been told by his doctors that it's not a serious procedure. ``They feel I'm healthy enough and said that it's a positive thing because they feel I'm healthy enough for them to take it out,' Karl said during the pregame Friday. ``So that's what we're gonna do next week. A 30-minute procedure. No problem.'
The Associated Press News Service
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