Mason Plumlee does a little of everything for Denver — including a pretty good Nikola Jokic impersonation.
Plumlee had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and wowed the home crowd with his Jokic-like, no-look pass to Trey Lyles in the Nuggets’ 112-87 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
Plumlee had four assists, the most impressive coming when he flipped a pass over his right shoulder to a cutting Lyles for a layup.
“I know Mason, he was looking, so I figured I’d cut and he did his own thing from there,” said Lyles, who scored a season-high 22 points. “Mason’s one of our best passers as a big. He looks for me all the time so I’m grateful.”
Jokic has become a fan favorite with his highlight-reel passes, and he was content to pile up vanilla assists on Friday. He finished with 11 and 10 rebounds but fell four points shy of a triple-double. It was the third time this season Jokic missed out on a triple-double because he failed to score 10 or more points.
Jokic assisted on Denver’s first four baskets of the game and nearly had a double-double at halftime. He only took seven shots and missed all three of his 3-point attempts.
“Nikola does have that flare, that’s why we play through him so much,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “Tonight he scored six points but had 11 assists and 10 rebounds. That’s how he can impact the game.”
The Nuggets didn’t need him to win their second in a row at home. Lyles and Plumlee provided enough offense off the bench. Lyles finished four points shy of his career best, thanks in part to Plumlee’s pass.
“We didn’t make eye contact but I saw him dive,” Plumlee said. “He’s a really good cutter, he knows how to move off offensive rebounds. He had been attacking the basket all night and he went up and had a great finish.”
Terence Ross led Orlando with 18 points and hit his first seven shots. His first miss came with 7:48 left and Denver comfortably ahead.
“The bottom line is we got worked,” Magic guard Evan Fournier said. “They were the most aggressive team. We tried to execute, but we didn’t have any flow or intensity. They kept scoring and we had to take the ball out of the net every time.”
The Nuggets led by 11 early in the fourth quarter before pulling away for an easy win. Plumlee scored four straight points, Lyles hit a layup and a three-point play and Jamal Murray, who had 16 points, drained a 3-pointer from the top during a 17-2 run that gave Denver a 27-point lead.
Denver’s biggest advantage was 29 points.
“If we lose by one or 25, doesn’t make any difference,” Orlando coach Steve Clifford said. “The disappointing thing is the way we played.”
Magic: Nikola Vucevic had 16 points. … Former Denver center Timofey Mozgov (sore right knee) has not played this season and Clifford said he is “a ways away” from returning. … Orlando has lost 14 of its last 16 games in Denver dating to 2003.
Nuggets: Denver is in the midst of its third back-to-back this season. The Nuggets are now 3-0 on the front end and 2-0 on the second night. … Denver attempted 11 free throws in the first half after shooting just six at Minnesota on Wednesday night. … 2018 draft pick Thomas Welsh scored his first NBA points. He finished with five in mop-up time.
Denver shooting guard Gary Harris left the game in the third quarter with what Malone called an “Achilles issue.” The Nuggets said the official diagnosis is left ankle soreness. Harris was walking without crutches or a boot after the game and when asked if he would play Saturday at Oklahoma City said, “I plan to.”
Magic: Visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Nuggets: Visits Oklahoma City on Saturday.