Game Recap: Orlando Magic 105, New Jersey Nets 90

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Although the final score may have been what some expected, the way this game played out probably wasn’t. The Nets played toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference in the first half and even had a 10-point lead late in the 2nd quarter. But their poor defensive effort and lack of scoring in the 2nd half completely hamstrung them, and the Magic were able to escape with a comfortable 105-90 victory.

Coming into this game I said the one thing that I wanted to see was how Brook Lopez matched up with Dwight Howard. Well unfortunately for the Nets, it wasn’t even close. Honestly the Nets center looked like a different person in Orlando. After missing his first few shots, he got very gun-shy, didn’t look confident and really played very poorly. I mean he didn’t make his first field goal until the 4th quarter, and finished with 10 meaningless points on 3 of 17 shooting. Dwight Howard is a tremendous player and he showed it tonight with a dominating 30 points and 16 rebounds, but I was really disappointed in Brook’s game. Look I didn’t expect him to play Howard evenly, but he needed to be respectable for the Nets to win this game. Oh, and to add injury to insult, he took an inadvertent elbow from Howard in the 4th quarter and ended up sprawled out on the floor.

After the first quarter last night the Nets were very lucky to be down only 2 points. Scoring droughts continue to be an issue for this team and tonight was no exception. They opened up a 10-6 lead on Orlando after a Devin Harris And-1 at the 7:48 mark of the 1st, and then didn’t score again until Travis Outlaw buried a trey with under 3 minutes remaining. It didn’t kill the team tonight but there will be games where it becomes a major issue. Even if you’re in a shooting slump the team needs to find a way to get to the free throw line and at least get something on the scoreboard.

The second quarter was a different story that saw the Nets put in 33 points as a team, largely led by T-Will, Travis Outlaw and Harris. Williams was especially good and I really liked the range he showed on his jumper. Coming out of college he was not a guy who could hit the 3 with any consistency, but he buried two in the 2nd quarter and finished with 10 points in the frame. Another thing I really liked in the 2nd was the Nets defense. Although Orlando got a little sloppy and missed some easy shots, whenever you can hold a team with the Magic’s talent to just 4 points in a 4 and a half minute span, you are doing some good things.

But the end of the second quarter was unfortunately something you often see from subpar teams. When you have a 10-point lead with a minute remaining, you need to make that lead stick going into the half. While they still had the lead, it was only 3 points and Orlando had all of the momentum going into the 2nd half, which they certainly carried over into the 3rd quarter. The Magic were able to get to the free throw line, got a big 3 from Vince Carter, and the Nets had some very poor possessions on the offensive end. Terrence Williams again showed some of his immaturity as a player with a bad turnover, added a missed shot and the Nets only had a slight lead going into halftime.

The one thing that will stand out to someone who didn’t watch this game was the disparity at the free throw line. While there were a few calls that could have gone either way, for the most part the Magic deserved most of the foul shots they took And the Nets just need to get to the charity stripe more often. Taking nine free throws in a 48-minute game is a joke. I realize that Dwight Howard is just so big that he attracts a ton of contact and gets to the line a lot, but the Nets need to be more aggressive. The Nets defense was also was very poor, especially in the 3rd quarter. I realize the second unit comes off the bench for a reason but their defensive effort towards the end of the third quarter was just pathetic. Actually, you can include the starters in there as well. One play that comes to mind is after Harris made a nice mid-range jumper, he was lazy getting back on defense and Jameer Nelson got to the rim without being contested. Despite all the fouls from the Nets, I still felt that they didn’t challenge Orlando enough around the rim. This is the NBA, where you aren’t just supposed to get uncontested layups and dunks. The Nets didn’t exactly follow that mantra tonight.

One of the definite bright spots of this game was the play of Travis Outlaw. He had been very sporadic during the first four games but shot the ball incredibly well tonight and showed a lot of confidence in his jumper, finishing with 17 points. The problem is that I still feel like this is going to be a “once-in-a-while” type game from Outlaw. If the Nets are going to realize their full potential, as the starting small forward, this is going to need to be the norm for him. “The Rook” (Derrick Favors for those not paying any attention) was very quiet tonight and honestly didn’t play much. However I think we can chalk up at least 1 or 2 monster dunks from him per game. That’s a given.

I really think Avery Johnson has done a good job with this team and I see many good things from him on the bench, but he misused his timeouts tonight. He did correctly sense that the game was getting away from the Nets in the 3rd quarter and that’s certainly why he called so many timeouts. But if this game had been close at the end, the Nets would have only been left with 1 timeout because of the required media timeout they were assessed in the 4th. One thing I did like from Avery was the shortening of the rotation. Damion James will have his time on this team but right now there just isn’t a ton of playing time at the forward spot. As for Johan Petro? He can just stay on the bench as far as I’m concerned.

More thoughts after the jump:

  • Gotta love that friendship Brook Lopez and Ryan Anderson developed during their one year in NJ. Everyone has seen their videos on YouTube and when YES showed them talking on the pre-game, you could tell these guys are close.
  • I’m a big fan of the dark kicks on the road. Looked like everyone was wearing black sneakers with the exception of Brook, who was sporting some red ones.
  • Say what you want about Vince Carter and his playoff performance, which has certainly been poor over his NBA career. But the guy is a flat-out scorer, and there aren’t many prettier things in basketball than watching VC bury a 28-foot three pointer like he’s taking a layup.
  • I talked about the injuries the Nets had coming into this game, and while D. Harris played a real solid game, Troy Murphy is still easing into NBA action. I was a big proponent of the Murphy trade, but let’s hope these first few games are not a sign of things to come.
  • Shooters are essential to an NBA team but they need to know when it takes ONE MORE PASS to get a better shot. I screamed at my television in the 4th quarter after the Nets cut it to 91-81. Troy Murphy had just hit a 3 and if Anthony Morrow swung the ball to a wide-open Murphy, the Nets could have cut it to 7 and who knows what would have happened after that.
  • The shooting percentages were much better for the Nets tonight, especially from the three-point line, where they made 10 of 22, good for 45.5%.

So now it’s on to South Beach tonight for the Nets second game against the Heat in a week. Miami is coming off of a back-to-back as well so it’ll be interesting to see which team is fresher. Enjoy it.