The Nets pulled off the greatest comeback victory since they needed change-of-address labels for their move to Brooklyn in 2012, escaping a 21-point hole and winning by two at Orlando Friday. There was no magical rally needed in the rematch against the Magic Wednesday night at Barclays Center.
That wasn’t to say it was easy for the Nets. It turned out to be an epic struggle between two teams chasing a place in the final playoff picture.
But the Nets managed to outlast Orlando again, emerging with their fifth straight win, 114-110.
“I thought we were so-so overall,” coach Kenny Atkinson said. “That’s a sign of a good team, to pull it out when you’re not at your top level.”
Spencer Dinwiddie paced the Nets with 29 points off the bench. D’Angelo Russell contributed 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. DeMarre Carroll added another 19 points off the bench.
So the Nets continue to rise. They’re on an 18-5 run. It marks their best 23-game stretch since the 2005-06 season.
This also marked their 26th win in 49 games. They didn’t win their 26th game until Game 79 last season, when they finished with 28 wins. They have also won seven straight and 11 of their last 12 in Brooklyn after beginning 3-10.
“It’s become a routine,” Dinwiddie said. “I think we have that belief that we can win more so than we have in my tenure here. If a team gets up or makes a clutch basket or something, we’re not saying, ‘Here we go again.’ We’re saying, ‘All right, let’s get the next stop,’ or, ‘Let’s make the next play.’ ”
The crowd of 13,185 saw a game that was airtight most of the way, complete with 17 ties and 15 lead changes.
Russell hit a jumper from the left elbow to give the Nets a 106-104 lead with 3:37 remaining. Carroll followed with a three from the right corner to make it a five-point game. D.J. Augustin scored on a layup to cut it to 109-106.
Orlando (20-28) had a chance to cut it to two, but 6-6 Joe Harris took a charge from 7-foot Nikola Vucevic (21 points, 14 rebounds).
“That’s a winning play right there,” Russell said.
Carroll then scored on a tip-in with 40.7 seconds left. The Nets were up 111-106.
But Vucevic countered inside to cut it to 111-108. Terrence Ross hit two free throws with 21.7 seconds to go to get it down to one. Rodions Kurucs was fouled with 15.9 on the clock, and the rookie hit the first to make it 112-110. But he missed the second.
Then Evan Fournier drove and put up the shot. It was bouncing on the rim. Vucevic tipped it in with 3.1 seconds left. But he touched it in the cylinder — offensive goaltending.
“I thought it was already coming out,” Vucevic said.
Russell made two from the line with 2.4 seconds remaining — Nets win again.
Jarrett Allen called it, “Brooklyn grit.”
Dinwiddie finished with 14 points in the second quarter, including 10 in the last three minutes, and the Nets finished the half locked in a 56-56 tie. They led 89-86 heading for the fourth and pulled it out. They know there’s a long way to go.
“Right now,” Dinwiddie said, “we’re still a feel-good story."