ORLANDO, Fla. — Just before speaking to reporters after the Nets’ 118-111 loss to the Magic on Friday night at Amway Center, Jeremy Lin stood in front of his locker as a trainer wrapped his midriff in multiple wraps of clear plastic as a means of keeping his balky back warm.
Lin had scored 17 points in a 19-minute stint after sitting out a win over the Lakers on Wednesday because of back stiffness, but even though he led the Nets with seven points in the final 4:53 of the fourth quarter, he blamed himself for not doing more.
In fact, Lin was outdueled by Evan Fournier, who scored 11 straight Magic points down the stretch, including eight foul shots and a dagger three-pointer after Lin had tied the score at 106 on a layup with 2:39 left.
In the final two minutes, Lin threw up an air ball and missed another shot in the paint as the Magic built a nine-point lead before Lin hit a three-pointer.
Despite appearances, Lin said his back felt fine and thanked the performance team for helping him get through a game for the second time after a 17-game absence because of a hamstring injury. At the same time, he was upset with himself.
“What sticks with me is just down the stretch, I’ve got the ball in my hands and I’ve got to hit more shots. I felt like that was the case in Houston as well,’’ he said. “I’m disappointed, but I love the challenge. I love the fact that Kenny [Atkinson] trusts me with the ball at the end of the game. I have to make sure the next time we’re in this position, it will be a different result.”
Lin said he still was on a minutes restriction as part of his comeback, playing a stint at the end of each quarter, but when it was suggested that he can’t expect to perform much better after being out nearly six weeks, he demurred.
“If I step on the floor, I have really high expectations,” he said. “I’ve been working out and getting in rhythm. Those are shots I know I can hit. I’ve just got to hit them next time.”
Brook Lopez had 22 points and six rebounds before fouling out in the final seconds and Bojan Bogdanovic added 15 points for the Nets (7-18). Fournier topped the Magic (12-16) with 21 points despite a 5-for-15 shooting night, Nikola Vucevic also had 21 off the bench plus 10 rebounds, and Serge Ibaka added 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks.
Overall, the Nets played a strong defensive game, holding the Magic to 40.2 percent shooting, including 24.1 percent from three-point range. But that was negated by some loose play on the boards, where the Magic had a 49-45 edge and outscored the Nets on second-chance points by a whopping 19-4 margin.
That was compounded by the Nets putting the Magic at the foul line for 42 free throws. Orlando made 33, which proved to be the difference.
Atkinson said he wants his team to play physical defense, but on this night, the Nets might have crossed the line.
“I want them to play defense with physicality, but you can’t be irresponsible,” Atkinson said. “It was a parade to the line. I’m disappointed our turnovers fueled easy buckets for the other team.”
In Lin’s view, the fact that the Nets are learning to play a more physical style of defense will pay dividends in the future. “It’s definitely a fine line,” he said, “but with a young team, I’d rather have us play physical and foul and learn what it’s like to be physical rather than not being physical at all.”