Orlando Magic Grades: Orlando Magic 121, Brooklyn Nets 113

The Orlando Magic got their shooting right as Aaron Gordon heated up to deliver the Magic to a win. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic got their shooting right as Aaron Gordon heated up to deliver the Magic to a win. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

38. Final. 113. 147. 121

It is never easy to end a long losing streak. There is always that potential for everything to fall away at the end. There is always the voice in the back of your head that everything will fall apart. That the same things will happen and topple the team.

Losing shakes confidence. And the really good teams can smell that fear and attack it. Losing can be contagious in that way. It is as much a mindset as anything else.

The Orlando Magic certainly looked shaken when they watched their 19-point lead to start the fourth quarter whittle down to six. They were struggling to generate much offense, not hitting their first field goal until past the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

They certainly felt that pressure that comes from a team that has not won in almost a month (yes, an All-Star Break was in the middle).

It is easy to forget how to dig deep and get wins even with the best of intentions and the best of efforts and energy to get the win.

The only place to start to break that habit is to do it once, even if it is grimy.

The Orlando Magic held on after taking a 19-point lead to stave off the Brooklyn Nets’ star-studded attack and break a nine-game losing streak.

The Magic withstood that run from the star-studded Brooklyn Nets, withstanding an onslaught from Kyrie Irving and a late rush from James Harden as the lead quickly dissipated.

But the team came out on top. Evan Fournier hit a step-back three. Aaron Gordon answered a three with one of his own on a night when he hit seven of eight from downtown. And then Nikola Vucevic hit a big jumper too.

Gordon may have iced the game when he tipped in a missed Fournier heave to give the Magic some breathing room. The Nets ran out of time to come back despite several fourth-quarter mistakes from the Magic in a 121-113 victory at the Amway Center.

The team’s nine-game losing streak is thankfully over.

Orlando can thank some energetic shot-making for that. Even on the back end of a back-to-back, making some shots can do wonders for the team. Orlando hit on 13 3-pointers in the first half, tying a franchise record for most threes in a half. The Magic ended up making 21 of 40 for the game.

That is always going to be vital to hold off a strong offensive team like the Nets.

Thankfully for the Magic, the Nets did not have the same 3-point luck. They made only 10 of 37 3-pointers. And Orlando largely did a good job keeping both Kyrie Irving and James Harden off the line. It was one of the few things the Magic could do well defensively in the game.

At this point, Orlando will take any win it can find. And every NBA team is going to have a night where the ball finally goes in. Despite the poor fourth quarter, the Magic did enough to win the game.

Orlando Magic. AARON GORDON. A-. . F

Aaron Gordon came out firing early. He hit seven of his eight 3-pointers. That confidence from hitting some early shots and playing on his front foot were vital for the Orlando Magic to take the early lead and never really let go. The Magic were never going to be able to come from behind and win this game.

Gordon kept constant pressure on the Brooklyn Nets’ defense with his shooting and even some with his driving. He was methodical trying to get to the basket and got his share of free throws. But if Gordon was not spotting up, his offense could be a bit tricky. This was just a game where all of Gordon’s dribble moves led to made baskets.

Gordon finished with 38 points on 14-for-20 shooting. His lone blemish was his seven turnovers. Playing as the backup point guard — and closing lineup point guard — is still a work in progress. Teams that have defenders who can pressure him in the backcourt can disrupt the Magic’s offense severely and force him into mistakes.

A. . G/F. Orlando Magic. EVAN FOURNIER

Evan Fournier was clearly frustrated following the Orlando Magic’s loss to the New York Knicks on Thursday. He ripped his jersey off after what he called a rookie mistake. He made sure not to make that mistake again. He played about as perfect a game as he can play, making shots from everywhere on the floor and providing a solid base for the team.

Fournier finished with 31 points on 10-for-13 shooting, including six of eight from beyond the arc. He made sure he did not make those same mistakes again too. He hit the big shots for the Magic to ice the game as the lead dwindled down.  The Brooklyn Nets’ switching defense gave the Orlando Magic trouble all night but Evan Fournier found his pockets and made things happen to secure the win.

Orlando Magic. NIKOLA VUCEVIC. B. . C

It is rare to see Nikola Vucevic have a game where he struggles from the floor. It is rarer to see the Orlando Magic win those games or have a chance to win in both. That is what having some more of the starters back. But the Brooklyn Nets did a good job largely taking Vucevic out of his element with switches and good post denials. He finished with 22 points but on 8-for-24 shooting, including 2 for 8 from beyond the arc.

Vucevic still found ways to contribute elsewhere. He had 14 rebounds and eight assists. He was solid defensively in the paint for the most part and kept the Nets from getting free reign inside. By the fourth quarter, Vucevic started to find his stroke. He hit several big shots to keep the Magic in front.

. F/C. Orlando Magic. KHEM BIRCH. B

Khem Birch is never expected to do a lot. And especially in a matchup like this, asking him to guard the Brooklyn Nets’ smaller lineups seemed like a huge ask. But he largely held his own. He was solid on the glass and making sure the Magic won the rebound battle. Birch remains a rock defensively. And that consistency is why he is playing a whole lot more.

The Orlando Magic will eventually have to get something offensively from him. They cannot just keep coming up empty with him. And his inability to catch passes consistently essentially leaves him as a non-shooter in the corner. Birch finished with two points and seven rebounds. That was about all anyone could give the Magic off the bench.

C. . 28-14. 2nd East. BROOKLYN NETS

The Brooklyn Nets even on their worst days are still a dangerous team. Kyrie Irving ate into the Orlando Magic’s lead with a 13-point run late in the second quarter. And he and James Harden nearly led a 19-point comeback to open the fourth quarter. The whole game it felt like the Magic were waiting for the Nets to stop going through the motions so much. Orlando did not play a great defensive game.

But in the critical moments, the Nets just missed shots. Literally, that is what happened. Joe Harris rimmed out several open looks with the game still in the balance. Kyrie Irving and James Harden also missed attempts from the outside. Brooklyn made only 10 of 37 3-pointers in the game. That was enough to give Orlando a path to victory. The Nets will be upset with their defensive effort, but they will mostly shrug their shoulders and say they missed from the outside.

Next. How Khem Birch can help Orlando Magic strike a deal. dark

The Magic are now 14-27, 14th in the Eastern Conference. They trail the Indiana Pacers by 4.5 games for the final spot in the play-in tournament. The Orlando Magic are back in action Sunday against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.