The Nets have the worst record in the NBA and that tends to overshadow all the progress they have been making this season. But if there is one area that has produced consistently, it’s the play of a bench whose 45.5 scoring average ranked second in the NBA going into Saturday night’s game against the Magic at Barclays Center.
The Nets’ bench was so dominant in a 121-111 victory over the Magic that it seemed like a misnomer to label them the “second unit.” The Nets’ reserves outscored the Orlando bench (72-16) and was the driving force behind a 24-7 run spanning the third and fourth quarters that broke open a tight game.
Although center Brook Lopez led the Nets (17-59) with 30 points, he enjoyed the role of spectator when the bench took control of the game during a decisive run that turned an 82-76 deficit into a 100-89 Nets lead. Trevor Booker was a dynamo with 23 points on 11-for-12 shooting and eight rebounds, and backups Sean Kilpatrick (15) and Justin Hamilton (13) also scored in double figures.
“I thought the bench did such a great job tonight,” Lopez said. “They came in and picked us up in the second [quarter] and again in the third. They were just spectacular out there, and they were the difference tonight. It was fun to watch honestly. It was just great to see that energy on the floor.”
In addition to the scoring of Booker, Kilpatrick and Hamilton, the Nets got outstanding guard play from backups Archie Goodwin (eight points), Spencer Dinwiddie seven points) and Isaiah Whitehead (six points, five assists) at both ends of the floor. Five of the Nets’ six reserves ranged from plus-15 points to plus-20 points while the Nets’ starters all were in negative figures.
The Nets’ bench scored the first 11 points of the final period before the Magic finally scored with 8:51 left to play. “Brooklyn’s bench came in and took over the game during that stretch to start the fourth quarter to build a big lead,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “Trevor Booker, in particular, led the show. All of their guards on the perimeter brought defensive pressure, and they drove right past us.”
Booker had eight of the Nets’ first 13 fourth-quarter points and Dinwiddie had the other five. “The second group came in, and everybody was playing with energy and got each other going,” Booker said. “The second group got us back in the game, and we just had it rolling.”
Nikola Vucevic topped the Magic (27-50) with 27 points and 11 rebounds, and they also got a triple-double from Elfrid Payton (20 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds) another double-double from Aaron Gordon (22 points, 15 rebounds) and 20 points from Evan Fournier. But after the Nets built their 11-point fourth-quarter lead, the Magic got as close as nine points only once the rest of the way.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and gave the Nets an 8-10 record since March. “Spencer Trevor and Sean and Isaiah are a fast group, and I think they caused some havoc out there,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Justin was covering our back.
“I just think we pressured them a little bit. That group has done it before. They’re kind of getting an identity that they’ve got to be the energy group. This is an excellent team win. You really enjoy these wins. Everybody contributed.”