ORLANDO, Fla. —On Friday, the Nets somehow managed to defeat the Magic despite allowing Nikola Vucevic to gouge them for 41 points. They weren’t so lucky Tuesday night at Amway Center, where they blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead on their way to a 125-121 loss and allowed Aaron Gordon to record a career-high 41 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 34.8 seconds left.
The Nets held a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but lost it after the Magic put together a 23-11 run to take a 114-112 lead with 3:36 left to play on a pair of foul shots by Evan Fournier. With 48 seconds left, the Nets regained momentary control when DeMarre Carroll stole the ball back near his own basket and scored for a 121-120 edge.
But on the Magic’s next possession, Gordon hit his clinching left-wing three for a 123-121 advantage. D’Angelo Russell committed a turnover while driving the lane. Fournier was fouled again and made two shots with 15.5 seconds left. The Nets got three three-point attempts up in the final seconds but missed them all.
“We were that close [to a win],” Russell said. “I feel we’ve got to limit our own mistakes. We gave it to them. They didn’t force us.”
Russell was heavily guarded on his last drive toward the rim and tried to pass out to an open Allen Crabbe, but it was intercepted. “Man, it was the wrong time to turn the ball over, a critical play,” Russell said.
Gordon, who sat out the game at Barclays Center with an injury, made 14 of 18 shots, including a 5-from-5 performance from three-point range, and he added 11 rebounds. His support came from Fournier (28), D.J. Augustin (19) and Vucevic, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. The Magic (3-1) got to the foul line 40 times and made 35.
Russell topped the Nets (2-2) with 29 points but had a single assist one game after recording 10 in a win over Atlanta on Sunday. Carroll added 17 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 18, and Caris LeVert had 15.
Asked about the Nets’ biggest problem on defense, coach Kenny Atkinson said, “Fouling. I think we fouled way too much. Aaron Gordon hit that step-back off the bounce. Credit to him. Vucevic hit threes on us [6-for-8 on Friday], and now Gordon goes 5-for-5 . . . Again, 40 free throws, that’s the highest-value shot in the game. We can’t do that, especially on the road.”
At the morning shootaround on Tuesday, Atkinson reflected on Russell’s 10-assist game and described the point guard as “our quarterback now. He’s under center. He’s making decisions. He has the ball in his hands. He can score the ball, but I do think in our offense I don’t think he has to dominate it 98 percent of the time.”
But the Nets’ “quarterback” called his own number early and often Tuesday night, going 4-for-4 from three-point range in a first quarter that ended in a 30-all deadlock. He had no assists in the opening half.
After his hot start, Russell admitted he was feeling his own shot and probably not finding his teammates often enough. “It’s a tough balance,” Russell said. “I felt I had that [hot hand)]. As we go through the season, I’ll do a better job finding that balance.”
Russell was on the floor in the third quarter when the Nets opened with a 19-7 run to take their largest lead at 80-68. The Magic surged, but the Nets held them off until the fourth quarter.
“I thought we had it at the end, but they got hot late,” Nets forward Trevor Booker said. “I feel we played pretty good, but Aaron Gordon got hot. Last time, it was Vucevic. They’ve got some shooting bigs. We have to deal with it.”