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Nets can’t hold lead down stretch, fall to Magic

Orlando Magic's Evan Fournier (10) fouls Brooklyn Nets'

Orlando Magic's Evan Fournier (10) fouls Brooklyn Nets' Brook Lopez, right, as he goes up for a shot during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. Credit: AP / John Raoux

ORLANDO, Fla. — The fourth quarter continues to be unkind to the Nets, who couldn’t handle the pressure in the final two minutes and dropped a 100-93 decision to the Orlando Magic.

Brooklyn, which got 24 points and 15 rebounds from Brook Lopez, didn’t score a point after a layup from Lopez gave the Nets a 93-90 lead with 1:43 remaining.

Instead, the Nets allowed back-to-back layups by Orlando’s Nik Vucevic and Hills West product Tobias Harris, and the Magic hit six straight free throws in the final 16 seconds to close out a game that Brooklyn controlled most of the night.

The Nets led by as many as 13 before falling apart down the stretch, going 3 for 20 from the three-point line.

Bojan Bogdanovic added 20 points for the Nets and Thaddeus Young had 16. Joe Johnson had just seven points and shot 3 of 8.

“Executing under pressure is important and I don’t think we handled the pressure well,” Brooklyn Coach Lionel Hollins said. “We didn’t focus, we didn’t work to get open, we didn’t work to get in the positions you need to get in and in the last five minutes of a game, you’re a little tired and sometimes that is what pressure will do to you.”

Brooklyn led 73-68 going into the final period, but hit just seven of 20 shots, committed four turnovers and allowed Orlando to shoot 52.9 percent when the game was on the line.

“We just couldn’t’ get a good shot,” Hollins said of the team’s fourth quarter struggles “We tried to go in the post, we tried to come off screens, we tried dribble handsoffs, but their defense was pretty good and it got away from us.”

Vucevic, who finished with 20 points and nine rebounds, fed Harris for a layup that gave Orlando a 94-93 lead with 45 seconds left in the game.

Jarrett Jack missed from 20 feet and the Magic’s Victor Oladipo hit two free throws to push the margin to 96-93 with 16 seconds to play.

Brooklyn’s last chance to tie never happened as Lopez was whistled for an offensive foul while trying to set a pick for Joe Johnson to launch a possible three for a tie.

Lopez converted a three-point play with 7:29 to go to tie it at 82, but both teams upped the defensive pressure and the final minutes resembled more of a rugby scrum than a basketball game. Not surprisingly, Vucevic and Lopez were in the middle of most of the action.

Lopez got the upper hand early with four straight points that gave Brooklyn a 93-90 lead, but Vucevic knocked down three straight baskets for Orlando, then fed Harris for the go-ahead layup with 45 seconds to play.

Brooklyn finished the quarter still up 73-68, but Orlando’s Jason Smith erased that by scoring six straight points to open the fourth quarter as Nets ballhandling became increase suspect.

The Nets scored six straight to take a 67-55 lead with 5:46 left in the third quarter when they suddenly got sloppy with the ball and let Orlando back in the game. Four Brooklyn turnovers fueled a 9-0 run by the Magic that cut the margin to 67-64.

The Nets recovered from a slow shooting start to hit 44.4 percent for the half, but the more important statistic was just two turnovers. Lopez and especially Bogdanovic combined for 26 points thanks to quick, decisive penetration from Jarrett Jack, who had eight assists and his backup, Shane Larkin, who added three more as Brooklyn led 52-45 at halftime.

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