By John Denton
November 30, 2012

ORLANDO – Because of a quirk in the NBA schedule, the Orlando Magic were forced to play the vastly improved and surging Brooklyn Nets three times in the regular season’s first month.

The good news for the Magic following Friday’s game at the Amway Center is that they don’t have to see the Nets again for nearly two months. And even that might be too soon considering how the Magic have struggled against Brooklyn.

The Magic used to dominate the Nets when they were based in New Jersey, but times certainly have changed now with the franchise in Brooklyn and loaded with talent both on the wings and in the post. Brooklyn broke open a one-point game in the third quarter with some dead-eye 3-point shooting and mashed the Magic on the glass in a 98-86 win before 17,103 fans.

It was the third time this season that Brooklyn (11-4) has beaten the Magic (5-10). The new-look Nets have won five in a row, while the Magic have dropped three in a row after winning consecutive games last week against Detroit and Cleveland.

``It’s completely different teams from last year,’’ said Magic guard J.J. Redick, referring to the changes that Orlando and Brooklyn (off to its best 15-game start in franchise history) underwent during the offseason. ``I remember we played Milwaukee four times in a month last year and beat them all four teams. So we’ve been on the other side of it. Sometimes, matchup-wise it doesn’t work out for your team and that’s the case for us against Brooklyn.’’

Further complicating matters for the Magic, they now must hit the road for five games over the next nine days. The Magic will play the Lakers (Sunday), Warriors (Monday), Jazz (Wednesday), Kings (Friday) and Suns (Dec. 9) during one of their longest road jaunts of the season.

Sunday’s game against the Lakers will pit the Magic against Dwight Howard, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder who forced a trade to Los Angeles in the offseason. Howard’s play has been somewhat up and down this season as he’s recovered from back surgery that cut short the last of his eight seasons in Orlando. Howard’s return to Orlando doesn’t come until March 12.

``I don’t care (about facing the Howard and the Lakers),’’ Magic power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said. ``Dwight’s got his own problems and we’ve got problems over here.’’

Already without starting small forward Hedo Turkoglu (broken left hand) and possible starter Al Harrington (knee surgery), the Magic had to play without veteran point guard Jameer Nelson Friday night. Nelson, who missed six games earlier in the season because of a groin strain, didn’t play on Friday because of pain in his left Achilles’ tendon.

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