When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Amway Center
Watch: YES Network
Listen: 101.9 FM, 660 AM
It seems like whenever the Nets seem to have momentum, it slips away. Brooklyn’s last three losses have been tough. Brooklyn blew a big lead against the Hornets and competed against Eastern Conference elite Toronto and Cleveland. While the Nets continue to play hard against opponents, they have not been able to seal the deal in many games this season. This recent stretch has been more of the same – strong performances followed by evaporation of team flow down the stretch. With eight games remaining in the season, the Nets are running out of time to put things together and earn definitive wins.
On Wednesday night, the Nets will head to Florida (where it feels like summer while New York is stuck in winter) to play the Orlando Magic. While it may not matter to Nets fans, the Magic are currently a half game behind Brooklyn in the win-loss column. Orlando currently holds the fifth-worst record in the league. While tanking continues to be an issue for the NBA, a Nets win would “potentially” be a positive for the Magic. That is the state of today’s NBA. Still, expect a competitive game between the two teams. The Nets have won two of their previous three contests against Orlando and will look to take a 3-1 season series advantage.
Here are three things to look for in Nets-Magic!
Attack the Wings
Two of Orlando’s most productive players, Evan Fournier and Jonathon Simmons, are injured. The two wings contribute different dimensions to Orlando’s gameplan. Fournier is a pure scorer that can shoot efficiently, while Simmons is all hustle and will likely outhustle any player matched against him. The Magic will likely be without those two players, so it could be time for the Nets’ wings to thrive.
Joe Harris’ 30-point explosion on Sunday could see a repeat. Allen Crabbe could thrive against Orlando’s platoon of wings in Mario Hezonja, Wesley Iwundu, Arron Afflalo and Rodney Purvis. On the defensive end, the Magic’s weakened offensive attack could be a boon for the Nets – who have not a held an opponent to under 100 points since Feb. 26 against the Chicago Bulls. While any wing player can step up for the Nets, they could thrive on the defensive end and hinder Orlando’s offense as well.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson continues to contribute strong performances for the Nets. On Sunday, RHJ scored 15 points, grabbed seven rebounds and tallied five assists against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a well-rounded performance for RHJ, who may just be the most reliable Net we have seen all season. Against the Magic on Wednesday night, RHJ will be matched up against his former teammate at Arizona, Aaron Gordon.
While possessing similar athletic attributes, the two have developed into different players. RHJ’s reliability to score on the inside and his herky-jerky style continue to grow. Gordon has developed into a more “modern” power forward, not afraid to shoot from the perimeter while also relying on his athleticism on the interior. The two know each other well, so it will be up to RHJ to stop Orlando’s leading scorer and match his athleticism.
Let’s face it – aside from watching the Nets possibly steal some wins at the end of the season, free agency and the NBA Draft will be the next events that could improve the Nets. One super intriguing option for free agency is Mario Hezonja. Drafted the same year as D’Angelo Russell, Jahlil Okafor and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the Nets could take another chance on a highly touted player that failed to find his footing. Hezonja has displayed an ability to score at will, with no conscious from the perimeter and flashes of athleticism.
Unfortunately for Hezonja, he has not been able to put all of his gifts together. His fourth-year option was declined earlier this season, making him a free agent. He could just need a change of scenery, and the Nets have done a solid job of building the confidence of players picked up from the scrap heap. While the Nets may have a glut of wings at the moment, they need talent. Everywhere. It is something to consider and scout in Wednesday’s matchup.