The Magic looked a bit fatigued through one half of play as the Nets picked apart the Magic defense -- particularly the undermanned second unit -- draining 3-pointers and getting into the lane whether it was through pick and rolls or post ups. Orlando did not have the will to drive to the basket or the ability to make shots.
Another blowout to the Nets seemed certain.
The third quarter was different. The defense tightened up, forcing Brooklyn into rushed passes and turnovers. The offense got out on the break and got moving, attacking the basket and kicking out and moving the ball from side to side.
The Magic cut was once a 17-point lead down to seven at the end of the third quarter and appeared to have a chance to sneak out a victory.
Those 12 minutes proved to be a mirage. A glimpse of what could be. The fourth quarter seemed more an image of what it is.
Orlando turned the ball over, gave up those open 3-pointers again and Brooklyn pulled away for an easy 97-77 win at Barclays Center on Monday.
The Magic have now lost six straight games and 17 of their past 19 games. If you are what your record says you are, the plain truth might be that the Magic are a bad team. Maybe not as bad as the experts believed preseason, but still pretty bad. A 14-30 record certainly suggests that.
Orlando looked lost defensively from the beginning of this one. Deron Williams had four 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 20 points. Keith Bogans added another four 3-pointers as the Nets hit 13 of their 29 3-point shots. A lot of those 3-pointers were created because of the threat Williams gave driving into the land and the attention the Magic had to give to defending Brook Lopez.
Orlando brought double teams on Lopez and, at time, Joe Johnson and the two were able to get the ball moving inside-out and keeping the Orlando defense off balance. In all, the Nets had 23 assists on 37 made field goals. These were not difficult shots the Nets were making for the most part.
Especially in the fourth quarter, when Brooklyn turned on the defensive juices and gave up only 14 points while racing out to a nearly 30-point lead. Orlando completely crumbled in the face of Brooklyn's final offensive onslaught.
The Nets, for the game, shot 50.0 percent and largely got what they wanted offensively. The 3-pointers were clearly killer. Orlando's defense though could get those stops. The team had for much of the first quarter and for that hope-inspiring third quarter.
In the third quarter, the Magic gave up only 14 points to get themselves back in the game. Glen Davis was done taking ill-advised jumpers. He attacked the basket with more fervor and energy and the rest of the team followed.
Davis scored 15 points. Jameer Nelson was much more aggressive too in getting Orlando into a better offensive rhythm. He had seven assists. J.J. Redick, struggling to hit a shot after his career game Sunday, but recorded a career-high 10 assists, contributing in other ways.
The Magic's third quarter was likely their best quarter of basketball on both sides of the ball since the win against Indiana. It showed lot of promise. Doing it for 24 minutes, let alone 48 minutes is becoming the problem.
Orlando's deficit was built in the second and fourth quarters where the team's second unit simply failed. The Magic were outscored by six in the second quarter after falling behind by 10 in the first, largely in the back end of the first quarter. In the fourth quarter, the Nets outscored the Magic by 13 points. By the time Jacque Vaughn got his starting unit back on the floor, they were digging themselves out of too big a hole and the team was clearly running on fumes.
The Magic played better and have something positive to cling to. But they also have another loss. And that is the bottom line. Again, losses are not something to get used to. Unfortunately, the season is quickly falling into a search for positives -- like Maurice Harkless scoring a career-high 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting -- rather than a hope for wins and a goal of making the postseason.
And Nicholson is being benched by Vaughn because.....why exactly? They've lose 17 of 19, if you don't give time to Nicholson and Harkless now when does it happen? Vaughn needs to be careful because of 2 things: A. If this losing turns into something like 26 out of 29 games he could easily be fired. and B. By bench Drew you are basically insulting Hennigan's draft pick of Nicholson since he was a top 20 pick. Do we really think Hennigan is thrilled to see his team going in the toilet while his first round pick gets no experience on the bench? I doubt it.
Nicholson's lack of playing time is extremely puzzling. He still has a long way to go defensively and I think the Magic are trying to desperately get back in the Playoff race. They are also possibly trying to showcase Glen Davis to increase his trade value. But Nicholson has already shown himself to be a great defensive player.
I would preach some patience with the rookies. I think Nicholson will see his playing time increase and become more consistent after the trade deadline. The roster will be a bit more settled then and the season will (likely) be more about developing young players like Nicholson and Maurice Harkless.
Also remember, the NBA season is much longer than the college season. I get the sense, Jacque Vaughn is trying to pace the rookies and keep them "fresh" so to speak so they can succeed when they enter the game.