Magic, Up 19 Early, Unable to Hold Nets Off
With a top 75 player of all time like James Harden and another perennial All-Star like LaMarcus Aldridge on the floor, no lead – no matter how big – is safe. The Orlando Magic built a 19-point lead in the first half behind scorching hot shooting early, but then Harden and Aldridge put their team on their back and carried the Brooklyn Nets past the Magic 115-113 on Friday night at the Barclays Center.
Jalen Suggs started this game the way he ended the last one. He scored 17 of his 21 points in the first quarter, tied with Jameer Nelson for the most points tallied in a single quarter by a Magic rookie since the 1996-97 season when quarter totals by individuals started getting tracked. Franz Wagner, with his fellow countryman Dirk Nowitzki in attendance watching courtside, scored 17 points, his 13th double-digit scoring performance already, before fouling out late.
Aldridge made the game’s two most important buckets – both in similar style. First with 56.5 seconds left and then again with 17.0 ticks remaining, the University of Texas alum put the Nets up three each time by backing down his defender for baby hooks. In between those baskets, Cole Anthony scored on a drive. Brooklyn, up three on two separate possessions in the final seconds, intentionally fouled Terrence Ross and Anthony to prevent them from getting 3-point shots off. Harden, who finished with 36 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, knocked down three of his final four foul shots to help seal it.
Out for Orlando were Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (left knee) and E’Twaun Moore (left knee sprain). For Brooklyn, Kevin Durant (right shoulder sprain), Nic Claxton (non-COVID illness), David Duke Jr. (G League – Two-Way), Joe Harris (left ankle sprain), Kyrie Irving (ineligible to play) and Paul Millsap (personal reasons) were out.
Through the early portion of the season, the Nets have won against teams they are expected to beat but have struggled against teams near or at the top of the standings. Their losses have come against the Bucks, Hornets, Heat, Bulls and Warriors. Not having Kyrie Irving obviously makes them less potent, but it still wouldn’t be shocking if they won the title if Kevin Durant and Harden are their normal selves. Their defense has been far better than most thought it would be. Entering Friday’s action, they had the fifth best defensive rating and were second in opponent 3-point percentage.
Quote of the Night
“Whatever I need to do, whether it’s just play defense or rebound or whatever I need to do to give us a chance to win then I’ll do it…We are just going to go from here. Just going to learn from this game and try to get better every day.” Chuma Okeke, who scored a season-best 17 points
This Day in History
On Nov. 19, 2002, Tracy McGrady erupted for 41 points to go along with 12 rebounds, two assists, four blocks and two steals to lead the Magic to a victory over the Seattle Supersonics. Leading the way for the Sonics that night with 23 points was Rashard Lewis, who five years later signed with the Magic, helping them reach the NBA Finals in 2009.
The Magic’s final stop on this road trip will be in Milwaukee, where they will play two against the defending-champion Bucks. The first of those meetings will take place on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. Although they’ve gotten off to a slow start, with absences to some of their key players certainly a factor, the Bucks defeated the Lakers behind 47 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo on Wednesday night. Also in that victory, Khris Middleton, back after missing the prior eight games while in health and safety protocols, tied the franchise record for career 3-pointers. He will surpass Ray Allen with the next one he makes.