Nets vs. Magic: Brooklyn Taking Control of Third Quarters

Trailing the Sacramento Kings by five points at halftime on Monday, the Brooklyn Nets scored 38 points in the third quarter, took an eight-point lead, and rode that momentum to a fourth-quarter blitz and a 123-94 win.

A week earlier, the Nets hung a 44-point third quarter on the Boston Celtics on their way to building a 27-point lead in a 109-102 win.

As the Nets have won 17 of their last 22 games going into Wednesday's matchup against the Orlando Magic at Barclays Center, taking control of games in the third quarter has been a consistent theme -- and a major shift from the season's first seven weeks.

Over those 22 games, the Nets have a net rating of 15.1 in third quarters, second in the NBA, and an offensive rating of 125.2, first in the league. For reference, the league's overall leader in net rating is Milwaukee (9.7) and in offensive rating it's Golden State (115.6).

Through Dec. 6, the Nets were 20th in the league in third-quarter net rating (-3.2) and eighth in offensive rating (112.3).

"We struggled earlier with the third quarter, so I think that's maturity, I think that's confidence," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "Whether we're down five at halftime or up 15, we know how to close the door in the third quarter. It's such a vital strategy when you come out of the locker room and put the hammer down in the third quarter."

Overall, the NBA's top four teams in third quarter net rating are Golden State, Toronto, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee -- that's the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and two of the top three in the Western Conference. It's the place where games can be won, and the Nets are excelling there right now.


Jarrett Allen grabbed a career-high 24 rebounds against the Houston Rockets a week ago, but that's just part of the second-year center's board binge. The 20-year-old has grabbed double-figure rebounds in five straight games, the longest streak of his career so far. He's averaging 14.0 rebounds per game since Jan. 11 and leads the team with 8.8 per game, a leap over the 5.4 he averaged as a rookie last season.

"He's capable of controlling the whole game just from the defensive end and I think he's realizing that," said D'Angelo Russell. "I would say when I first met him, young dude — I'm a young guy myself — but I just realized that he just played defense. 'I'm going to block a shot if it comes my way.' Now his tenacity's a little different. He's wanting to play defense. He's communicating, he's letting us know, 'if you guys get beat, I'm here. So be aggressive.' He's leading with that type of communication now."


The Nets have now won six straight games at home and 10 of their last 11. In his on-court comments with YES Network after Monday's game, D'Angelo Russell made a point to thank the fans. The Brooklyn surge is fueling the crowd and the energy is being returned.

"I felt it yesterday with the fans," said Kenny Atkinson after Tuesday's practice. "It's zero degrees out and it's freezing and I thought the crowd was great. I think we're feeding off that home-court advantage. I feel it from the fans that they're recognizing what we're doing and they're really helping us at Barclays."


The Nets are playing their entire three-game season series with the Orlando Magic over the course of 16 days. This is game No. 2 after Brooklyn's comeback on Friday from a 21-point deficit to a 117-115. That was part of a three-game slide for the Magic before Monday's win against Atlanta, and the Magic are now 20-27 and in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, 4.5 games behind the 25-23 Nets.

"I think they're coming in with a mentality like they need this win," said Kenny Atkinson. "I'm sure they didn't like how they lost that last game against us and I know NBA teams, they'll come in with a chip on their shoulder. So we need to be ready."


Seven-foot center Nikola Vucevic had 16 points and 17 rebounds against the Nets last Friday. He also had two double-doubles in three games against Brooklyn last season. Vucevic leads the Magic with 20.5 points and 12.0 rebounds per game and is shooting 38.2 percent from 3-point range. Forward Aaron Gordon is averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds and guard D.J. Augustin is shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range, eighth in the NBA.