No letdown for Nets in easy win over Magic
They were supposed to have learned their lesson, cognizant of tripping and stumbling face first into a Magical trap door once again.
Once again the Nets were coming off an emotional win and were staring at the Magic, a surefire lottery team. It was almost like the Nets were right back where they were on Nov. 3, when they were barely 48 hours removed from a triumphant display over the two-time defending champion Heat, riding a vibe that had them feeling as if they could compete with anyone.
That's what made last night's game against Orlando an important test, a good gauge to see just how well a team that had won seven of eight games this calendar year could handle prosperity.
Letdown avoided, disaster averted.
Fueled by a 20-8 spurt to start the second half, the Nets kicked things up a notch in the third quarter and throttled Orlando, 101-90, in front of a late-arriving Barclays Center crowd of 15,482 that braved the elements.
Andray Blatche pumped in a team-high 18 points off the bench, Mirza Teletovic added 14 and Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce each had 13 for the Nets (18-22), who have rattled off three straight victories and won for the eighth time in their last nine games. Their 8-1 record in January is the best in the NBA this month.
Deron Williams, coming off the bench for the second straight contest following his return from a five-game absence after platelet-rich plasma therapy for his ankle, posted nine points and nine assists. Kevin Garnett turned in another efficient effort with eight points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field and five rebounds.
Kyle O'Quinn led the Magic (11-31) with 15 points. Half Hollow Hills West product Tobias Harris had seven points for Orlando, which was held to 14 points in the third quarter, the fewest points the Nets have yielded in the third quarter this season. The Nets took command in the third, outscoring the Magic 27-14 and watching a four-point halftime edge mushroom to a dozen midway through the quarter.
Shaun Livingston's steal and subsequent two-handed flush handed the Nets a 62-48 edge with 7:20 remaining.
The Nets had things well under control heading into the fourth and their 73-56 advantage allowed coach Jason Kidd to rest his key players in the final quarter, giving them a prime rooting seat on the bench to cheer their teammates on to a rare win in back-to-back games this season. They were 1-6 on the tail end of back-to-backs, something Kidd made sure to mention to them after Monday's win over the Knicks.
Despite holding an edge in virtually every key statistical category, the Nets were up only 46-42 at the break, unable to put much distance between themselves and Orlando. They led by as many as eight points and shot 48.8 percent from the field.
However, their defensive intensity and effort was inconsistent, making it seem like the Nets were not focused when the Magic had the ball. Orlando made 17 of 34 attempts in the first half and went 5 of 12 beyond the arc, meaning the Nets had to tighten things up on that end of the floor in the second half in order to remain undefeated everywhere outside of Canada since the calendar was flipped to 2014.