Postgame Report: Magic vs. Nets (4/9/14)

Arron Afflalo

By John Denton
April 9, 2014

ORLANDO – Playing with the lead most of the night because of spectacular 55.8 percent shooting, 11 3-pointers and some stellar scoring by Arron Afflalo and E’Twaun Moore, the Orlando Magic still had to withstand several surges by the playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets.

Holding off the veteran-laden Nets is something that the youth-filled Magic likely wouldn’t have been able to do in the not-so-distant past. But as a sign of maturity from the blossoming Magic, they answered each basket with a basket of their own, hit clutch free throws down the stretch and finally got lucky on a late-game in-bounds play.

``Our goal is to be better at the end of the year than we were at the beginning and it’s a sign of maturity for us to get control of games and make plays at the end,’’ Moore said after Orlando held on for a 115-111 defeat of Brooklyn at the Amway Center.

The Magic (23-55) beat the Nets (43-35) for a second time this season at home to improve to 19-20 at the Amway Center. The 55.8 percent shooting was a season-high.

Moore turned the game around in the second quarter by scoring 14 straight points and his 3-pointer just before the end of the third period steadied a wobbly Orlando team. For the game, he made all six of his shots, including five 3-pointers, and scored 17 points in just 18 minutes on the floor. The Magic were a plus-17 in scoring with Moore on the floor Wednesday night.

Arron Afflalo was equally aggressive, scoring 25 points for his best scoring night in a month. Afflalo had a driving and spinning layup with 3:39 left to put Orlando up four points and his three over Joe Johnson (31 points) with 1:58 left helped the Magic stave off several Brooklyn runs.

``I’ve noticed this season that we’ve been at closing out games,’’ said Afflalo, who made nine of 16 shots, drilled two 3-pointers and scored his most points since Feb. 21. ``Last season we really struggled in close games that were less than five (points) with a minute left. It shows a sign of maturity and a sign of confidence from the group collectively. Hopefully it continues to get better.’’

Orlando narrowly avoided yet another five-second inbounds turnover with 28 seconds to play when Kyle O’Quinn got the ball to Maurice Harkless for a dunk. O’Quinn (13 points and eight rebounds) also swatted Johnson’s potential game-tying 3-point try with eight seconds to play.

``Me and Mo have a little chemistry with the backdoor cut,’’ O’Quinn said. ``He saved me, but who else would but him? We do that (backdoor cut play) on the regular. It’s just a chemistry that we have and we had to have it. I had nowhere to throw the ball and he made a nice backdoor cut for a dunk. That was big for us.’’

Orlando avoided disaster with 2.3 seconds to play when Harkless fouled Mirza Teletovic (17 points) on a 3-point shot, but the cold-shooting Nets forward made just two of the free throws. Jameer Nelson (14 points and seven assists) sealed it with four free throws late in the game.

The result was potentially significant because it gave the Magic 23 victories, tying them with the Boston Celtics for the fourth-worst record in the NBA. That could come into play during the May 20 NBA Draft Lottery when the Magic are hoping for the best odds possible for a high draft pick. Orlando lost the season series to Boston 3-1, but a coin flip would decide which team has the better odds heading into the lottery. Boston, losers of nine straight, blew a big lead in the fourth quarter Wednesday night and fell in Atlanta.

Moore had his finest game in two months, scoring 17 points in just 18 minutes. Moore pumped in 14 consecutive points for the Magic at one point in the second quarter and hit his first six shots, five of them 3-pointers.

Afflalo 15 of his points in the first half, while Tobias Harris had a strong second half and finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Kevin Garnett (five points, eight rebounds and six assists) was limited to just 17 minutes.

The Magic, who were without starting center Nikola Vucevic because of a sore left Achilles’ tendon, were facing Brooklyn in Orlando for the first time since Nov. 3, which was an impressive 107-86 Magic victory. The two teams conclude the four-game season series in Brooklyn on Sunday at the Barclays Center.

The Nets, who were without Paul Pierce on Wednesday because of a hip pointerm were playing a night after beating Miami in South Florida on Tuesday. Brooklyn still has plenty to play for as it is chasing Toronto for the Atlantic Division title and Chicago for the fourth playoff seed.

The Magic had to weather a haymaker of a run by Brooklyn in the third quarter, and they still came out of it with an 83-78 lead heading into the fourth period. The Nets wiped out a 12-point halftime deficit and took a couple of one-point leads. But Orlando ended the third quarter the same way it got the lead just before halftime – with a dagger 3-pointer from Moore.

Orlando led 55-43 at the half following a jaw-dropping, game-turning swing in the second quarter. Orlando outscored the Nets 21-3 during one stretch of the second period to surge ahead by as much as 16 points.

Moore came off the bench and provided instant offense for the Magic in the second quarter. The third-year shooting guard, who is affectionately known by teammates as ``Three-Twaun,’’ scored 14 straight points for the Magic by making four 3-pointers and hitting all five of his shots.

``When I hit one or two shots I started feeling good and then you feel like you are on fire,’’ Moore said. ``They just kept coming to me and I was trying to knock them down. … We wanted to play fast tonight because they were coming off a back-to-back. We wanted to get up and down. I was filling the lane, Vic (Oladipo) was attacking and I was getting open shots.’’