ORLANDO, Fla. — There was a time last season when the Nets were known for fighting hard but falling short at crunch time. Judging by their past two games, those days are over.
Two nights after their miracle overtime win over the Rockets, the Nets wiped out a 21-point deficit in a 117-115 victory over the Magic on Friday night at Amway Center.
D’Angelo Russell scored 40 points, including the go-ahead three-pointer with 27.1 seconds left. The victory was the third straight and 16th in 21 games for the Nets (24-23), who have sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Coach Kenny Atkinson worried about an emotional hangover from the Rockets game, when the Nets staged dramatic comebacks in the final minute of regulation and final 1:28 of overtime in a 145-142 shocker, overcoming a 58-point night by James Harden. His fears were realized when they fell behind the Magic by 21 in the second quarter and trailed by 18 in the third.
But the Nets finished the game on a 14-4 run that included seven points from Spencer Dinwiddie and five from Russell.
“Obviously, DLo was huge with the big shots,” Atkinson said. “But we didn’t play a great game. Credit to our team that we pulled it out anyway.
“I keep using the same word: resilient, resilient group and resilient team. They really showed it tonight. I knew it was going to be a tough game after the big win against Houston . . . Between Houston and tonight, they were ecstatic.”
Coming off his 33-point effort in Houston, Dinwiddie had 20 for the Nets, who also got 10 rebounds and four blocks from center Jarrett Allen.
Aaron Gordon topped the Magic (19-26) with 23 points but missed the final nine minutes with a lower-back injury. Nikola Vucevic added 16 points and 17 rebounds.
The best part for the Nets was how well point guards Russell and Dinwiddie played together. In the second quarter, Russell scored 19 straight Nets points to cut their deficit to 11. When the Magic pushed their lead back to 18 in the third, Dinwiddie scored 11 in a 21-9 run to pull within six.
In the fourth quarter, Russell and Dinwiddie totaled 16 points. The Nets took a 113-111 lead with 54.9 seconds left when Dinwiddie hit a corner three-pointer and completed the four-point play.
“I was one of three or four options and that option was open,” Dinwiddie said. “I would say the difference between me and some other guys — and something DLo has, as well — is not being scared to miss. You’re ready to take the criticism if you do miss.”
Russell hit the winning three-pointer from the top of the arc for a 116-113 lead and put an exclamation point on his career-high 40-point night.
“Any night, it can be anybody,” he said. “We saw it in the Houston game. We saw what Spencer did. Anybody on our team is capable. We believe that.”
The victory lifted the Nets’ road record to 12-12. “That means a lot,” Atkinson said. “We have the maturity to win on the road. We don’t seem to be overcome by the moment. For us to be down on the road, good crowd, good team, that’s an excellent win.”