Nets, Magic face off in matchup between Eastern Conference cellar dwellers

Aaron Gordon
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Nets, Magic face off in matchup between Eastern Conference cellar dwellers

The Brooklyn Nets picked up a big 107-97 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday to improve their record to 7-17 for the year. Since the Nets have won just 3 of their last 15 contests, it is imperative that Brooklyn continues to build momentum with a win against the Orlando Magic on the first of a 3-game road trip.

While the Nets have been mostly poor this year, they have looked better in recent contests, almost optimistically. Disregarding a 29-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs — which, hey, it happens — Brooklyn has competed hard against the Western Conference, including a thrilling lose against the Houston Rockets earlier this week. 

In Brooklyn’s home victory against the Lakers, it was the usual suspects who carried the Nets to victory. Bojan Bogdanovic (23 points), Sean Kilpatrick (22 points), and Brook Lopez (20 points) provided the buckets while Isaiah Whitehead played well in Jeremy Lin’s (new) absence, committing only one turnover in 24 minutes of action.

The Nets will need to stop Orlando’s athletes from running over them in transition if they want to steal one on the road. Aaron Gordon has continued to show off his bounce with a plethora of highlight reel dunks including a backwards two handed alley-oop against the Clippers a few days ago. Gordon finished the night with a career-high 33 points in the loss and has refined his game to fit in alongside Serge Ibaka and Nikola Vucevic in the Magic frontcourt. Elfrid Payton and D.J. Augustin could be tough covers for Lin, if he plays, who has been hampered all season with hamstring issues.

The Magic may not have the best record but they provide plenty of challenges for the lowly Nets. 

3 Things to Watch for in Nets-Magic:

1. Battle on the boards

The Magic are well stocked in the frontcourt with Vucevic, Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, and Jeff Green all seeing minutes at the 4 and 5. Biyombo and Vucevic, in particular, rebound well and Ibaka is no slouch himself. Nobody on the Nets besides the undersized Trevor Booker is known for getting after it on the glass, so it will be interesting to see if Brooklyn can compete in the rebounding category after out-rebounding the Lakers 61-49 on Wednesday.

2. Stretch the floor, avoid the Magic’s rim protectors

Orlando’s tandem of Ibaka and Biyombo ranks as one of the scariest in the league for opposing players to drive into. The length and athleticism they pose makes it difficult for anyone to get a decent look at the basket. While those two won’t always share the court together, it would certainly benefit the Nets to draw those behemoths out of the paint with good three-point shooting and spacing from their bigs. Brook Lopez’s three-point prowess (who would have ever thought?) can potentially open up the Magic defense and unclog the lane for the Nets guards.

3. Is Jeremy Lin back?

Jeremy Lin returned Monday against the Rockets but, sat out Wednesday’s tilt against the Lakers. While it was seen as a precautionary measure, Lin missing what would have been just his second game back is certainly a troubling sight for Nets fans. Lin’s presence in the line-up gives the Nets a significantly better chance to win any game. So for Brooklyn’s sake, let’s hope we see Lin in the line-up in Orlando.