After a dominating victory against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference closed out 2014, it only feels right that the Nets keep their train rolling by beating one of the worst teams in the East, climbing to .500 with a victory that was nearly derailed by a wild fourth-quarter Magic run.
The Nets didn’t kick off this game as planned, taking over two minutes to even get a shot off, throwing away a ton of easy passes, and even trailing after one period. That was almost where this one ended: the Nets poured on the offense all game, getting big contributions from their bench-now-starters and starters-now-bench, leading by as much as 26 points.
But The Magic took advantage of a collapsing Nets offense, cutting a 95-71 lead with eight minutes left down to as little as the final score by pouring it on from the perimeter and in transition, and were a few seconds away from stealing away this victory.
Until that wild Magic run, this was as close to sublime on both ends of the floor as you can get. But once it started, it was mere seconds from becoming arguably the worst collapse the Nets have seen in Brooklyn. For 40 minutes, they dominated like the Spurs; for eight, they stunk like the 76ers. Split the difference.
The stats: 16 PTS, 7-8 FG, 8 REB, 3 BLK
Don’t be surprised that he didn’t start following his dominating 29-point performance against Chicago to close 2014. The last time these two teams played, Nikola Vucevic poured on 27 points & 11 rebounds in three quarters, and the Nets only escaped with a victory once they substituted Garnett for Lopez in the fourth quarter.
But Lopez made up for that poor performance tonight. Lopez looked quicker and more aggressive, pursuing rebounds on both ends of the floor, and even playing some solid defense at the rim.
Plumlee has played far too well to assume that Lopez will return to the starting lineup anytime soon. But if anything, Lopez’s slow return to effectiveness means the Nets have a dangerous combination of centers to throw out there at any time.