The light is at the end of the tunnel.
Everyone seems to recognize that, even Jacque Vaughn as he decided (at long last) to let a decent lineup ride toward the end of the fourth quarter even though it meant playing the same lineup for the entire fourth quarter (a bench lineup at that), making a substitution only to replace a fouled out Andrew Nicholson. Arron Afflalo, Victor Oladipo and Kyle O’Quinn stayed firmly planted on the bench.
That did not matter so much as the Magic’s offense still seemed able to hum along, but was unable to get over the top. To that point, Orlando was able to match Brooklyn run for run and shot for shot throughout the entire game — even with that same second unit on the floor — except for a short stretch of the game. A 13-0 run from the Nets that saw them hit three straight 3-pointers without an appropriate response from the Magic.
Orlando just did not have the offensive push to battle back when Brooklyn started making those 3-pointers. It was a hard-fought effort, but a 97-88 loss to the Nets at Barclays Center on Sunday night. It clinched the worst road record in franchise history for the Magic and was a disappointing note to an otherwise great effort.
The Magic had a fantastic effort throughout the game as they made shots and worked their way to the interior with some great passing. Kyle O’Quinn was big early and Victor Oladipo had a big spark for the Magic offensively early. O’Quinn finished with 10 points and four rebounds while Oladipo had 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting.
The game turned though in the third quarter as the Nets began to focus in for a short stretch and make their 3-pointers.
For the game, the Nets made 12 of 29 3-pointers with four each from Deron Williams and Mirza Teletovic. Teletovic had a game-high 20 points, making 7 of his 12 shots. That was something he did not do early in the week in the Magic’s win.
Brooklyn had 33 points in the third quarter as Orlando simply could not come up with a stop. And the Magic just could not answer the 3-pointers the Nets were making. The offense could not keep up. This is not anything new. The Magic just are not great at creating offense and stressing out defenses consistently for 48 minutes. Especially with several of the Magic’s best players — Nikola Vucevic was shut down for the season and Jameer Nelson was held out with a strained groin — on the bench for a good chunk of this game.
Tobias Harris was the main catalyst offensive for Orlando. He had 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting, adding seven rebounds as well. Andrew Nicholson was big off the bench with 12 points, his first game with 10 or more points since Jan. 2.
There were several highlight plays in the process as the Magic tried to push the pace and did a good job forcing turnovers. Brooklyn had 23 turnovers turned into 23 Orlando points. The Magic had a 40-32 advantage in points in the paint and a 14-11 advantage in fast break points. Orlando got a lot of what it wanted offensively.
Turnovers though cost the Magic in the long run. They had 20 turnovers themselves, turned into 26 Nets points. They were in bad locations too. There were a lot of tipped passes at the top of the key that were brought on by Deron Williams’ solid defense. Oladipo had six turnovers in the game. When he was not setting himself up for shots, he was struggling to initiate the offense against Williams’ pressure defense.
The turnovers were not the biggest problem, but made the offense that much harder to run as the Nets built their lead behind those 3-pointers.
Orlando was often caught out of position as the team was trying to tip passes and go for steals itself. Ronnie Price, who overall played a good game, was a big culprit of this. He shot into passing lanes and was over aggressive time and time again. This created 5-on-4 situations that Brooklyn took advantage of to get those 3-pointers.
The Nets also had 14 offensive rebounds, often lucking into or beating the Magic to the offensive glass. Those extra possessions set up the Nets for more success and killed momentum.
Orlando spent the majority of the fourth quarter with an effective lineup that was unable to get over the hump. The team got as close as six points and began to lock things down on the perimeter but could not get the points and buckets to make a push at the lead. Brooklyn slowly put the game away.
It seemed clear with the lineup decisions and the decisions to rest certain players for the game and late in the game that the end is getting closer. The Magic have seen what they need to see and are protecting players from injury it would seem.
So a solid effort like this ends up coming in a nine-point loss. And we move on to the next one. Just two to go.