Orlando was very much in a race against Brooklyn. Time was not on its side after digging a 22-point deficit in the first quarter and looking like a Friday repeat was on the way. Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and Reggie Evans dominated the offensive glass, getting the Nets plenty of extra possessions to build the lead.
The Magic were not going to lay down again. They were not going to let the bad snowball into worse and the worse become embarassing. Not on back-to-back games, not to the same team.
The problem is when you start a game 12 minutes later than the other team is that you become Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill. When you get so close, it seems to come crashing back down. That was the Magic as they played extremely strong defense and kept the Nets within striking defense. That was the Magic as they made enough offensive plays and found the ball movement needed to manufacture points to climb back in the game.
That was the Magic as they needed that one big shot to climb over the top and maybe score an emotional and major victory over the Nets in a 82-74 loss at Barclays Center on Sunday.
Orlando got the lead down to five late in the fourth quarter, but saw Deron Williams hit a back-breaking and deflating jumper over E'Twaun Moore from the foul line. The Magic had plenty of opportunities both before and after that, but could not get the ball in the basket.
There was one sequence where the Magic got three opportunities to score thanks to Josh McRoberts offensive rebounds. J.J. Redick was open for 3-pointers on two of those and he missed them both. He missed another open jumper late in the game and then had a layup blocked with less than two minutes to play. The same occurred for Glen Davis as he found an offensive groove and aggression late in the game.
The plain fact was the Magic were playing better and with more energy on offense, but were unable to put the ball in the basket or consistently get good looks at the basket. There were a lot of long 2-pointers hoisted in this game with the Magic struggling to attack the basket or get into an offensive flow. The Magic's 36.1 percent shooting and 1-for-12 shooting from beyond the arc symbolizes that pretty clear.
There was plenty of good though. In the fourth quarter, it seemed the light clicked on and the Magic started moving the ball better. Orlando started getting off the ball movement and moved the ball quickly enough to free up driving lanes for Davis (19 points, 9-for-21 shooting), Arron Afflalo (19 points, five assists) and Redick (10 points, nine assists).
It came fast and furious when the Magic were finally able to push the pace and secure rebounds. Orlando's defense after giving up a 35-point first quarter and digging that double-digit hole that took the whole game to climb out of.
The Magic gave up 12 offensive rebounds in the game and many of them turned into easy buckets for the Nets, particularly early when Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries (who grabbed 21 rebounds). This was how Orlando dug its hole as Brooklyn got open shots with the Orlando defense not set. Many of the Magic's great defensive possessions were ruined by offensive rebounds and a second chance to score.
Orlando cut off that faucet in the fourth quarter and were able to get out on the break. This made the offense easier and helped the team make the passes and cuts it needed. It did not help in making enough shots. The defense was solid enough to give the Magic a chance -- the Nets shot only 37.2 percent for the game -- but the hole was too big.
And so the boulder came crashing back down again at the end. Orlando had arrived to this party just a bit late. And so the lesson for this team is to stick with the defense when the offense is struggling and to bring the intensity for a full 48-minute game.