Nets Catch Fire to Storm Past Magic

Kyle O'Quinn blocks Paul Pierce

By John Denton
Jan. 21, 2014

NEW YORK – It was ``Russian Night’’ on Tuesday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and outside it resembled Siberia what with the 12 inches of snow on the ground, the howling winds and the sub-zero wind-chill temperature.

All together, it felt like some sort of bizarre scene out of ``Rocky IV’’ with the star-studded Brooklyn Nets playing the role of Ivan Drago as the heavy favorites and the Orlando Magic stuck in the underdog spot.

Unfortunately for the Magic, however, the there would be no stirring upset by the plucky underdog this time around. Instead, Brooklyn withstood an early flurry from the pesky Magic and delivered a crushing knockout blow in a decisive third quarter.

Orlando fought bravely for a half, spurred on by veteran point guard Jameer Nelson’s unselfish play, but it ultimately collapsed under an avalanche of missed shots and errors in the third quarter of a 101-90 loss to the surging Nets.

``We didn’t move (the ball). We were moving it in the first half really well and then in the second half we didn’t,’’ Magic forward Tobias Harris said. ``You see how it goes. In the first half, we’re right in the game and the second half they make shots and we’re not moving it. That’s the story of the game.’’

Orlando (11-31) saw an early lead slip away just after halftime when it missed 18 of 21 shots in the third period. Down just four at the half, the Magic got outscored 27-14 in the third quarter to ruin their chances of a second win against Brooklyn (18-22) this season.

``We stopped playing together, we stopped playing defense and we just laid down,’’ Magic power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis said. ``We went to sleep.’’

Once 11 games under .500 and the clear disappointment of the NBA, Brooklyn has now won eight of nine games. The Nets’ wins on Monday afternoon against the New York Knicks and Tuesday night versus the Magic were their first back-to-back set of victories this season.

Orlando was coming off a stirring 93-91 defeat of Boston on Sunday at the Amway Center, and it was hoping for some carryover on Tuesday as they entered the official second half of the season. The Magic were attempting to win back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 27 and 29 when they beat Detroit and Atlanta.

However, the Magic couldn’t slow down all-stars Joe Johnson (13 points) and Paul Pierce (13 points) in a one-sided third quarter. Orlando’s reserves made a brief run in the fourth period, but Brooklyn got five 3-pointers and a big run from Andray Blatche (18 points) and Mirza Teletovic (14 points and four 3-pointers) to finish off the Magic.

``Well, it was our starting group again,’’ said coach Jacque Vaughn, referring to the Magic’s bad habit of poor third-quarter performances of late. ``We had a good halftime talk and I was encouraged with the way that we talked and communicated at the half. But they came out with aggression, made a few shots early and we missed a few. We just can’t let those continue to pile up and carryover from one possession to the next.’’

Arron Afflalo, who made just four of nine shots and struggled to finish around the rim, had 11 points and was the leading scorer among Orlando starters. Nelson (10 assists and nine points) and Davis (10 points and seven rebounds) did their part, but the Magic got little production outside of that. Harris scored seven first-quarter points and didn’t score again, while rookie guard Victor Oladipo (10 points, six rebounds and five assists) didn’t factor heavily into the offense.

Reserve center Kyle O’Quinn, a native of nearby Jamaica, Queens, played his third straight solid game with 15 points and eight rebounds. E’Twaun Moore chipped in 13 points, 10 of them coming in the fourth quarter.

``We were doing a lot of good things in the first half, but we were just kind of stagnant in the third quarter,’’ Nelson said. ``We stopped helping each other defensively. We have to do the things that helped us get good starts and sustain that over the course of a full game.’’

Added Davis, who limited former Boston teammate and close friend Kevin Garnett to eight points and five rebounds: ``This was real disappointing to be in the game and have a chance to win the game, and to just let it go like that it was real disappointing.’’

Orlando showed off some of its progress early in the season when it routed Brooklyn – a team that smashed the Magic four times last season. The Magic whipped the Nets 107-86 in November, quite a turnaround from last season when they lost four games by an average of 19.7 points. Nets coach Jason Kidd joked before the game of that result, saying: ``That was a long time ago.We can’t go back that far. That was 2013.’’

The Magic will be back in action at the Amway Center on Wednesday night when they host the Atlanta Hawks. Orlando won in Atlanta on Nov. 26 to snap an 11-game losing streak to the Hawks. They also beat the Hawks on Dec. 29 in Orlando.

Taking advantage of a break in the snow, the Magic travelling party hurried out of Barclays Center after the game and were scheduled to fly back to Orlando.

Said Vaughn on his postgame message to his team: ``Let’s get dressed so we can make a flight and get out of here.’’

Down just four at the half, Orlando came unglued in the third period. It missed 10 of its first 11 shots to start the second half and trailed 64-48 by the time it had its second field goal of the third quarter. Brooklyn, meanwhile, made nine of its first 14 shots after halftime and had a commanding 69-52 lead following a Pierce 3-pointer.

The Magic trailed 46-42 at the half, but they matched the Nets shot for shot in the early going. Orlando shot an impressive 51.5 percent in the early going by being patient and passing the ball well for open shots. The only negative in the first half was the nine turnovers that led to 12 Brooklyn points.

Vaughn played just seven players on Sunday because of matchup concerns against the Celtics. But he went deep into his bench on Tuesday, using nine players against the Nets. Nelson was a key catalyst for the Magic offense in the first half. He had eight assists and five points early on and the Magic were a plus-five in scoring in his 16 minutes on the floor in the first half.

Davis was the primary benefactor of Nelson’s ball movement. Facing Garnett, Davis had eight points and six rebounds in the first half.

Nelson got the Magic off to a fast start by creating open baskets for his teammates. Nelson set up all of the Magic’s first five baskets with five assists. He twice found open shooters for 3-pointers and when he got the ball to Davis for a layup, Orlando had its first lead at 13-12 and forced the Nets into a timeout.

Davis, for one, was disappointed in the discrepancy in how the Magic shared the ball and defended in the first half and the second.

``Early on, we moved the ball, everybody was involved and everybody got a touch,’’ Davis said. ``Then, it just stopped. We’re not a team of all-stars or a team that can do it by themselves. Every night we’ve got to play together. Tonight, we just laid down and as a competitor you don’t like to see that.’’