ORLANDO – This is beginning to feel like a flashback for Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried.
A third-year player from Morehead State, Faried continued his late-season tear by getting 26 points and nine rebounds to lead the Nuggets to a 120-112 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
Faried, who was bothered by the trade rumors linking him to several other teams last month, has begun playing like the Nuggets always thought he could, dominating around the basket with his size, quickness and athleticism.
He has averaged 24 points and nine rebounds in the last four games. He had a career-high 32 points in a victory over the Lakers last week, then followed with 22 points and 14 rebounds in a loss to the Pelicans.
He scored with ease Wednesday against the Magic, hitting 11 of 18 shots in just 32 minutes
“I feel great right now, like I’m back in high school, or playing in college again,” Faried said. “I’m getting my post-ups, and the team has confidence in me. I know how to score down low. I know what I’m doing, and I’m just having fun out there.”
Faried is averaging just 12.1 points. He averaged 10.2 points and 11.5 points in his first two NBA seasons after being the 22nd pick of the 2011 draft. He has looked like a different player lately.
“He’s playing with more confidence now,” said Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, who had 21 points and 10 rebounds Wednesday. “And when he plays like that, it’s contagious. We can feed off him, we can build off him.”
Faried had 11 points in the third quarter when the Nuggets took control of the game and never let go.
Reserve center J.J Hickson had 20 points and nine rebounds in just 22 minutes, giving the Nuggets (28-36) another spark early in the fourth period.
The Magic (19-47) were led by guard Arron Afflalo, who had 24 points. Center Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Guard Jameer Nelson had 19 points and nine assists.
It was the second time this season the Nuggets had a big night offensively against the Magic. They won 120-97 earlier this season in Denver.
The Magic never got closer than five points in the fourth quarter, closing to 110-105 when Nelson hit his fourth 3-point basket of the game. Denver reserve Aaron Brooks responded with his own 3-pointer in the next possession and the Nuggets were never challenged again.
Guard Ty Lawson had 17 points and a game-high 12 assists. The Magic hit 10 of 22 shots from 3-point range, including five in the third period when they scored 33 points. Chandler completed a four-point play late in the period.
The Magic got a spark from Nelson early in the third when he scored eight points in a three-minute stretch, giving them a 62-61 lead. Faried led the next charge, and the Nuggets led by 11 points going into the fourth period.
The Nuggets scored 54 points from inside the lane, where Faried had four offensive rebounds.
“Their bigs were really effective at getting the ball in the paint and scoring. Their penetration and their bigs were pretty effective,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “It’s a big part of why we were on the losing end tonight.”
The Nuggets led 52-50 at intermission, closing the second period with a 25-10 run that was sparked by Lawson and Chandler.
Vucevic led everyone in the first half with 16 points and seven rebounds, but he did most of his work in the first quarter. The Magic led by as many as 13 points early in the second period.
The Nuggets tied the game at 48 when Chandler hit a 3-pointer . They led 51-50 when Lawson completed a 3-point play, then stole the inbounds pass in the final seconds to set up Faried, who made one of his two free throws.
In Monday’s loss in Milwaukee, the Magic led by 18 points in the first half, but saw their early lead disappear.
NOTES: The Magic have a particular interest in the fortunes of the Nuggets this season because the Nuggets owe them a first-round draft pick this summer, stemming from the multi-team trade of Dwight Howard in 2012. The Magic will be getting the lesser of the Nuggets’ and the Knicks’ picks (the Knicks owe theirs to Denver). … Magic PF Kyle O’Quinn got his third consecutive start (and his only three this season) Wednesday. He averaged 9.5 points and 6 rebounds in just 19 minutes in his first two starts. … Nuggets G Ty Lawson has been on a roll since returning from a rib injury, averaging 24 points in the previous five games. F Kenneth Faried came into the game averaging an impressive 20.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in his previous six games. … The Nuggets are 3-24 this season in games in which they scored fewer than 100 points.
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