Nets 129, Magic 92: Brooklyn Rolls Past Orlando For Eighth Straight Win

Make it eight, and make it easy.

It didn’t look like it from the start on Thursday night.

“Couldn’t get any worse,” is how Nets head coach Steve Nash described Brooklyn’s first 12 minutes against the Orlando Magic. But the Nets quickly left that shaky shooting start behind, outscored Orlando by 22 points in the second quarter and eventually led by as many as 40 points on the way to their 129-92 win.

It was the eighth straight win for the Nets, who haven’t lost since Feb. 9 in Detroit, and are now 22-12. They’ve built their run on improved defense, versatility and perseverance, storming through a five-game West Coast trip and thriving despite playing without Kevin Durant for seven of the eight wins and dealing with other injuries that have cost players a game or two here and there.

“A big part of it is our group’s bonding,” said Nash. “They’re growing together. They’re starting to feel success and roles are shoring up and you can sense it out there that they are having more fun, that they are connected offensively and defensively, that they have a lot more poise together. That collective experience, while we’re still a new group, is starting to come through. I think that, as much as the improvement defensively, understanding defensively, and the fact we realize defense is a weak spot for us, they’re locked in, they’re focused, and for the most part, they’re working at their defense. Those two things for me are the most important.”

Down 28-24 going into the second quarter, the Nets quickly flipped the game with a 15-5 run powered by James Harden with a second unit group. Harden scored seven in the burst, and Tyler Johnson knocked down two 3-pointers.

Leading 46-43, the Nets ran off a 19-2 run to build a 65-45 lead before going into halftime up 18. Brooklyn had seven steals in the quarter, forcing eight Orlando turnovers overall. Harden had 13 points in the second quarter alone, making 5-of-6 shots. As a group, the Nets shot 72.7 percent from the field (16-of-22) and 63.6 percent on 3-pointers (7-of-11) in the second quarter.

“We didn’t waver when we had a slow start and they were up, I don’t know, 12, whatever it was for a moment there,” said Nash. “I will say our energy and our connectivity has been outstanding and we’re getting better in that department every week and you can feel it and see it and that’s something we’ve got to continue to invest in.”

Brooklyn kept on the pressure to open the second half, with an 8-0 opening run courtesy of DeAndre Jordan’s rebound tip-in, followed by Kyrie Irving knocking down a 3-pointer and coming up with a steal and a layup for a 25-point lead.

Irving led Brooklyn with 27 points and nine assists, plus five rebounds, shooting 11-for-18 overall. Harden had 20 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, and Joe Harris scored 14 while making 4-of-6 3-pointers.

Landry Shamet scored 19 points for Brooklyn and Bruce Brown added 14. Nic Claxton had 10 points, with four steals, three rebounds and two blocks. DeAndre Jordan had 11 rebounds and scored eight points.

With six players scoring in double figures, the Nets shot 53.3 percent overall and 44.4 percent from 3-point range. They outrebounded the Magic, 51-35, and had 30 assists for the second straight game.

“We just tightened up,” said Nash. “We relaxed a little. Started to find ourselves. Most importantly, we picked up our defense. It’s one of those nights where they couldn’t make a shot after the first segment of the game, but at the same time I felt we handled business and increased our intensity and our decision-making. Defensive improved and we were pretty solid.”