Magic Fall to Nets Following Francis Trade
New Jersey 96, Orlando 93
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Feb. 22 (Ticker) -- After making Steve Francis disappear earlier Wednesday, the Orlando Magic watched a surprising lead vanish.
Hours after trading their three-time All-Star point guard, the Magic squandered a double-digit lead and lost their eighth straight game, dropping a 96-93 decision to the New Jersey Nets.
Keyon Dooling and recently acquired Carlos Arroyo effectively ran the point with Francis across the Hudson River, watching the Knicks lose to Miami.
"We need to focus on the things we can control, which is playing hard, smart basketball," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "If we play as hard and as unselfish as we did tonight, we're going to win our fair share of games down the stretch. We just need to play together a little longer."
Despite the effort from the shorthanded Magic, it was Nets point guard Jason Kidd that was the decisive factor with 28 points and 11 assists, falling just three rebounds shy of his second triple-double in as many nights. He dominated the late stages as the Magic focused on stopping All-Star Vince Carter.
"(Carter) was getting so much attention that someone had to step up and I put myself in that position," Kidd said. "There are so many games to be played, everyone will get his opportunity to be the guy the team plays through."
New Jersey rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter and were locked in an 85-85 tie after Dooling buried a jumper with 3:08 left.
Carter missed a jump shot at the other end, but Clifford Robinson and Jason Collins each tipped the ball before it landed in the hands of Kidd, who buried a 3-pointer to give the Nets the lead for good.
"I was a little hesitant to shoot the three after a long rebound," Kidd said. "I thought we could get a better shot. But I tossed that plan out and took the three."
After Dooling missed a 3-pointer, Kidd sliced through the defense for a layup. On New Jersey's next possession, Orlando guard DeShawn Stevenson saved a loose ball from going out of bounds but threw it right to Richard Jefferson, who sank a jumper to make it 92-87 with 1:40 left.
Orlando shot 8-of-16 from the floor in the fourth quarter, finishing at 53 percent (36-of-68), but missed five free throws in the final 11 minutes and 12 overall.
"The free-throw shooting didn't help," Hill said. "But they got two big offensive rebounds in the final minute and got five points off of it. They just made the plays."
The Magic closed to 96-93 with nine seconds left after Dwight Howard split a pair of free throws. On the miss, point guard Travis Diener grabbed the rebound off a scramble, but Arroyo missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
"We had a good look at it," Hill said. "The Nets just did a great job keeping the ball alive and we didn't have much time."
Jefferson had 23 points and eight rebounds and Carter added 22 and nine for the Nets, who won for the seventh time in their last nine overall and the 15th time in 16 games at home.
Dooling scored a career-high 23 points, Howard added 17 and Arroyo 10 of his season-high 13 in the second quarter for the Magic, who have lost 12 of 13.
Orlando dominated the first half despite getting little from Howard, who got into early foul trouble. Most of the damage was done by Stevenson, Dooling and Arroyo, who combined for 36 points on 15-of-20 shooting.
"We did a great job containing Dwight, but everybody else was hitting shots," Carter said. "We didn't do a great job of defending the jump shot. In the second half, we wanted to do both."
But Orlando cooled in the second half, making just 5-of-18 shots in the third period. Four of those were from Howard, who gave the Magic their biggest lead at 59-46 with a dunk at the 9:16 mark.
The Nets responded quickly with 13 of the next 15 points and reeled off 10 straight - six from Carter - late in the quarter to take their first lead since the opening minutes.