Magic Down Nuggets, 103-97, But Lose Vince Carter To Injury

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J.J. Redick Steps In For Vince Carter Again. Now What?

There's no doubt that Vince Carter is playing better now than he played earlier in the season. There's no doubt that the Magic will need him in the playoffs.

But in light of J.J. Redick once again stepping in with Carter sidelined by a phantom injury, it's worth bringing up whether the Magic need VC that badly. The Magic didn't beat some downtrodden lottery team, they beat the Denver Nuggets, one of the top teams in the West. Without Redick's 23 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, the Magic would have lost. He certainly is making the case that he deserves more than 22 minutes a game. 

But where do those minutes come from? The answer is ... probably nowhere. Stan Van Gundy can't really cut Carter's minutes, and the Magic need Matt Barnes for his defense and toughness. In the short term, the Magic will just have to plow ahead with Redick playing less than he probably should. 

In the long-term, the Magic may have a problem with Redick. He's a restricted free agent this summer, and as the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz points out, he made sure to say "If I'm back" next season during a postgame interview. The Magic would undoubtedly want to keep him, but they already are over the luxury tax and would have to essentially pay double for Redick's services. It's hard to justify spending what essentially amount to $7-8 million dollars (once you account for the luxury tax) on a guy who will never play more than 22 minutes a game.

SB Nation's Magic blog Orlando Pinstriped Post writes that the Magic should re-sign Redick and "pay him accordingly." But that's a lot easier to say when you're not the one cutting the checks. It'll be very interesting to see whether Magic ownership will want to break the bank for Redick if they don't win the title this season. 

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Magic Down Nuggets, 103-97, But Lose Vince Carter To Injury

Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - J.J. Redick replaced an injured Vince Carter in the first quarter and finished with 23 points, including seven in a vital fourth quarter, as Orlando beat Denver, 103-97, for its 13th win in 15 games.

Ryan Anderson added 19 points in a reserve role for the Magic, who have a stranglehold on second place in the Eastern Conference. They also maintained a 4 1/2-game lead on Atlanta for first place in the Southeast Division after the Hawks beat Indiana earlier Sunday.

Dwight Howard totaled 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Magic, who have won nine of their last 10 home games.

Carter suffered a sprained right big toe when he collided with Denver's Aaron Afflalo on a pick-and-roll play just 95 seconds into the game.

Carmelo Anthony had 26 points on 11-of-25 shooting and ended with eight rebounds for Denver, which lost in Orlando for the 16th time in the last 17 tries. Despite the defeat, Denver clinched a playoff berth earlier in the day when Memphis lost to Milwaukee.

Chauncey Billups scored 18 for the Nuggets, who have lost four of their last five games. They fell into a tie with Utah for first place in the Northwest Division.

Joey Graham's short jumper had the Nuggets within 87-85 with 8:27 left in the final quarter. Malik Allen blocked a Howard shot, but the Nuggets couldn't tie the game as Nene turned the ball over.

Denver had another attempt to square the contest after Howard missed a pair of foul shots, but J.R. Smith was whistled for traveling. That led to an Anderson three-pointer with 7:06 left. Howard added a free throw and a Jameer Nelson driving layup moved the lead to 93-85 with 4:28 to go. The Nuggets never got closer than five points the rest of the way.

Denver led 24-22 after one quarter before the second proved to be a back-and- forth period. Denver held onto a 52-51 lead at the half and led by as many as 10 in the third on a Billups jumper for a 67-57 margin with 7:39 left. Orlando then scored nine in a row and tied it at 77 moving to the fourth.

The home team has won 13 of the last 15 matchups...The Nuggets are 1-3 on a five-game road trip, which concludes Monday at Dallas...Nelson had 15 points, one less than teammate Matt Barnes...Smith and Nene each scored 13...The Nuggets are a miserable 3-19 all-time at Amway Arena.

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