The Brooklyn Nets head to Orlando on Monday night for their first meeting of the season with the Magic, aiming to snap a five-game losing streak. The slide has closed the gap between seventh-place Brooklyn (16-18) and eighth-place Orlando (16-20).
“When I first started this job, we had 20 wins and were the worst team in the league, so we’ve been through the losing streaks and it’s just part of this league,” said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson after Saturday night’s loss to Toronto. “It happens, but this will test us, test our character. I told the guys in the locker room, this happens during the NBA, and we’ll get it back. We’ll get it back down the road when we win five out of six or win six in a row. I have enough confidence in the team. We have to stick with our habits and our principles and trust what we do and we’ll get out of this.”
The Nets were outscored by 18 points in the fourth quarter of the 121-102 loss after being within a point in the opening minute of the quarter. They saw similar scenarios unfold against Dallas, Minnesota and Houston. Since their last win — when they blitzed Atlanta 37-14 in the fourth quarter — the Nets have been outscored by 29 points in the fourth quarter over their last five games, next-to-last in the league since Dec. 26.
“Last four out of five games, we were right there, or lead, or close,” said Atkinson. “That’s a theme. That’s a big theme right now. We have to figure out why. Fourth quarters have really been a thorn in our sides. It was again tonight. We competed for three quarters of the game, a little bit more than three quarters. I think when we subbed the starters back in the game, it was a six- or seven-point game and then they kind of went on a run and I’ve kind of seen that film before recently, so we have to figure it out. We have to figure out why we’re running out of gas. Is it physical? Is it execution? It’s probably a combination of all of those things.”
NETS SIGN CHRIS CHIOZZA
The Nets have added guard Chris Chiozza on a two-way contract after waiving two-way signee Henry Ellenson on Friday. Chiozza began the season on a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards before being waived on Dec. 17. After being waived by the Wizards, Chiozza was reaquired by Washington’s G League team, the Capital City Go-Go. Chiozza played 10 games this season for the Wizards and 10 games for the Go-Go.
Previously, Chiozza played seven games for the Houston Rockets in 2018-19 after originally being signed to a 10-day contract. He played four seasons at the University of Florida, earning All-SEC First Team honors as a senior in 2017-18.
KYRIE IRVING UPDATE
Nets guard Kyrie Irving met with the media on Saturday evening for the first time since he last played in mid-November. Irving has since been listed as out with a shoulder impingement for the last 23 games. The two-time All-NBA guard had a cortisone shot on Dec. 24 and is waiting to see how his condition responds.
“I think just from a psychological perspective, it’s tough,” said Brooklyn’s Joe Harris, who also played with Irving in Cleveland. “He’s a competitor at the end of the day. That’s why he is one of the best players in this league. He wants to be out there with his teammates. He’s doing everything in his power to get back. Hitting some different hurdles here and there, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is your health and you’ve got to make sure that your body is right before anything else. By no means are any of us asking him to rush back. You want him to be healthy, hundred percent, comfortable. But I know it is frustrating for him, but I think he knows to a man in this locker room everybody’s got his back and knows he’s putting in the work he needs and controlling what he can control.”
CARIS LEVERT OUT VS. ORLANDO
Guard Caris LeVert returned Saturday against the Raptors, but is listed as out against Orlando for injury management. Against Toronto, LeVert scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 2-for-2 from 3-point range.
“Just adds one of our best players to the lineup quite honestly,” said Kenny Atkinson prior to the game. “A dynamic player, athleticism, quickness, speed. Of course, a guy that knows our system too; it’s not like some guy we signed out of the blue. I feel comfortable once he gets his rhythm. He knows what we’re doing on both sides of the ball so that’s a big comfort level.”
LeVert had missed 24 games after opening the season posting career-high rates of 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game.
“Very frustrating,” said LeVert of the time off the court. “You know I love the game; I love being a part of it. Love helping my team out in any way that I can. It was tough being out, but I’m glad to be back.”
ABOUT THE MAGIC
Orlando is 16-20 after Saturday’s loss to Utah, and is playing Brooklyn for the first of three times this season.
The Magic are 26th in the NBA in offensive rating (104.7) and field goal percentage (43.2), 27th in 3-point percentage and 29th in effective field goal percentage (51.9). They play the league’s 27th-fastest pace (98.46).
Orlando is 10th in defensive rating (106.1), third in steals (8.5) and fourth in blocks (6.4). Third-year forward Jonathan Isaac is third in the league in blocks (2.4), but he’s been sidelined with a knee injury. Veteran guard Evan Fournier leads the Magic with 19.0 points whil shooting 40.6 percent from 3-point range, and Nikola Vucevic averages 18.4 points and 10.8 rebounds.