Unlike the weather in New York, the Brooklyn Nets have been hot lately, coming into this game winning seven of their past eight. The Orlando Magic have been somewhat hot themselves, coming off a rare win against the Boston Celtics at the Amway Center on Sunday night. Unfortunately, Orlando’s season has gotten to a point where you can safely call them “hot” after just a single win. The Nets seem to be on track after a very rough start to the season, and the Magic are, well, not quite there yet.
The way the first quarter went, you would think both these teams are destined for the playoffs. Good ball movement and scoring distribution for both sides was the story early in the game. There was a good pace in the early going as it seemed both sides were looking to run and went with small ball lineups. This is probably more due to necessity than choice with Brook Lopez and Nikola Vucevic sidelined with injuries. In spite of these key absences, the frontcourt players stole the show in the first period, with the likes of Tobias Harris and Glen Davis leading the way for the Magic, and Andray Blatche as the main contributor on offense for the Nets. Kyle O’Quinn also made his presence felt in the early going with two big blocked shots. O’Quinn has been able to string together a few good games now and has even received some recognition from Grantland writer Zach Lowe, who indicated he thinks the Magic should reward KOQ with some additional playing time.
As the rest of the first half progressed, both teams continued to trade buckets. If the Nets hit a shot, the Magic would come back with one of their own. If Orlando bricked a three-point attempt, Brooklyn followed on the other end. Jameer Nelson played well without needing to score very often as he dished out eight assists in the first half. Nelson and Davis ran the pick-and-roll early and often, and for the most part it was very successful. Nelson was doing all the little things during the game to keep Orlando going, from tipping rebounds to teammates for second chance opportunities, to finding the open man off his drives to the basket. The buzzer sounded off to end the first half with Joe Johnson hitting a fade-away jump shot over the outstretched arms of two Magic players to give the Nets a 46-42 lead.
The third quarter came along and things just started going the Nets’ way. Brooklyn had stretched its lead to nine when Victor Oladipo air-balled a wide open three-point attempt to add to his already dismal shooting performance. On the next possession, Alan Anderson knocked down a three of his own. The only thing that kept this game from getting out of hand was Jameer Nelson continuing to play hard and looking like he’s 21 years old again. He has been able to get to the rim with some ease, consistently blowing past his man off the bounce. Unfortunately for Nelson and his teammates, the entire Brooklyn team kept making baskets and it wasn’t long before the Nets built the lead to 19.
If you were still watching when the fourth quarter started, you knew the Magic were completely outmatched in this game and just hoped the team could save face and not allow the blowout to get too big. For a large portion of the quarter, head coach Jacque Vaughn went with a young lineup consisting of Oladipo, E’Twaun Moore, Mo Harkless, Harris and O’Quinn, looking for increased tempo and energy. In some ways Vaughn was successful, and Orlando was able to score much more efficiently. On the other side of the court, however, Brooklyn continued to scorch the net and come up with some big plays, led by Andray Blatche. Although it was a 20-point game, the Nets celebrated almost every basket as if this were a playoff game. Finally, the contest came to a close and Magic fans came away with nothing to show other than maybe one more ping pong ball at year’s end. The Nets on the other hand must have taken away a real boost in confidence as they continue to get better each game they play, and are beginning to look like a team that can do some damage in the playoffs. Top performers for the Nets were Andray Blatche and Mirza Teletovic with 18 and 14 points, respectively. Top performers for the Magic included Kyle O’Quinn with 15 points and eight rebounds, and Jameer Nelson with 10 assists.
Magic Game Notes
Blink and you’ll miss it
After a back-and-forth first half, Orlando let the game get blown out of reach in the third quarter. If you got up to get a snack halfway through the third, you may have left a four-point game and come back to a 19-point differential. A large part of it can be attributed to Orlando shooting about 32 percent in the period, another part being an atrocious effort on the defensive end.
Second unit Success
Orlando faced a real test after a tough third quarter and Jacque Vaughn threw out his young second unit to battle back. Although the lead was never cut, the youngsters off the bench were able to show some promise as they delivered 34 points in that final period. Magic fans would like to see more of this as they played with great pace and seemed to be in sync as a unit.
Lack of consistent play
Since Vucevic went down with a concussion, the Magic have had a very tough time replacing the consistency he brings to the table. The only real consistent player offensively for the Magic is Arron Afflalo now, and that is not enough for the team to string together a streak of wins. Without that inside presence, the Magic have had a very tough time finding enough scoring to stay competitive in most games. The Nelson-Davis pick-and-roll seemed to work well in the first half, but for whatever reason, the team stopped running the play and the Nets exposed the weakness on the interior through Andray Blatche.
Stat of the Night
Jameer Nelson surpassed Dwight Howard for second place on Orlando’s games played list, suiting up for his 622nd game. He trails only Nick Anderson at 692 games played in a Magic uniform.