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Magic guard Cole Anthony returns to spark second-half comeback over Nuggets, 108-103

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 12/2/2021 Matt Murschel, Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley talks to game official J.B. DeRosa during a game against the New York Knicks on Oct. 22, 2021, in Orlando, Florida. © Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS Orlando Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley talks to game official J.B. DeRosa during a game against the New York Knicks on Oct. 22, 2021, in Orlando, Florida.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Cole Anthony returned to the Orlando lineup for the first time since Nov. 20 and sparked a fourth-quarter comeback as the host Magic snapped a 7-game losing streak by defeating the Denver Nuggets 108-103 Wednesday night.

Anthony had 24 points with 8 rebounds and 7 assists after missing six games with an injury.

After trailing by as many as 16 points, the Magic (5-18) used a second-half surge to claw their way back into the game. It was a back-and-forth affair until Anthony tied with the game at 99 with a floater with 4:02 remaining.

Franz Wagner’s 3-pointer with 1:45 left gave Orlando its first lead of the game at 106-103. Anthony sealed the win with a pair of free throws.

It was just the Magic’s second win this season at Amway Center.

Anthony led six Magic players in double figures, including Wendell Carter Jr. with 18 points, Franz Wagner with 15 points and Moe Wagner with 12.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic had his 13th double-double of the season with 18 points and 15 rebounds while former Magic star Aaron Gordon added 17 points. Monte Morris paced Denver with 22 points.

With Anthony out, Orlando had struggled to find offensive consistency. The Magic were averaging an NBA-worst 95.8 points and shooting 39% from the floor during their time without the second-year point guard.

Anthony’s return was welcome news for a franchise that’s snake-bitten by injuries, with Magic players missing 109 games due to illness or injury this season. That includes guard Jalen Suggs, who broke his right thumb late in the Magic’s 101-96 loss at Philadelphia Monday. The damage won’t require surgery and the team plans to monitor it every two weeks.

“I’m sad that it happened to him, but there’s a relief that there’s no surgery needed,” 1st-year head coach Jamahl Mosley said.

Suggs was averaging 12.3 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds over 27 minutes in 21 games.

Mosley indicated that the rookie guard would continue to be involved in team activities throughout the process and be re-evaluated regularly.

“Every two weeks, we’ll re-evaluate how it’s going and then on top of that, he’ll still be doing the conditioning; still moving, still running and still looking at film,” said Mosley. “He’ll probably spend more time with coaches when it comes to these things so we can continue to develop him.”

The Magic has lost seven straight games but faces the Nuggets, who recently snapped a 6-game skid with a win over the Miami Heat Monday.

The game featured the return of Gordon, who spent seven seasons in Orlando before winding up in Denver through a trade. Gordon had been averaging 13.9 points and 6.1 rebounds through 20 games for the Nuggets.

“He’s gotten better over the years,” Mosley said of al-star forward. “Now that he’s in Denver, his ability [helps] to sit down as a defender, being able to guard multiple positions and I know he’s shooting better this year. Over time, he’s gotten better in developing his shot and the defensive side of the floor is where he’s made the strides.”

Orlando begins a 5-game, 11-day West Coast trip that kicks off against Houston on Friday with games against the Rockets, Golden State Warriors (Dec. 6), Sacramento Kings (Dec. 8), Los Angeles Clippers (Dec. 11) and Los Angeles Lakers (Dec. 12).

The Magic won’t return home until Dec. 15 against the Atlanta Hawks.

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