BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Orlando Magic 104-96 Sunday afternoon, improving their record on the season to 4-2, but it took them longer to close out the victory than they would’ve liked.
“Any time you get a win, it’s a positive, but the way we got it, it was a bit frustrating at times,” Joe Johnson admitted.
The Magic, a youthful team not expected to make noise in the Eastern Conference, took a 52-50 lead into halftime. “I didn’t think we played horrible defense, I thought they hit some tough shots,” Deron Williams said. “I think that second quarter we let them get open for some threes and got out of our gameplan a little bit. It’s disappointing, but when a team plays good, sometimes you just have to grind it out.”
After trailing at halftime and leading by just four points after three quarters, the Nets took a page out of last season’s book, playing four wing players around Kevin Garnett or Mason Plumlee, going “small” and leaving Brook Lopez on the bench for the last 12 minutes. The change was necessitated by Nikola Vucevic’s play, dropping 27 points on 13-19 shooting in the first three quarters, mostly on pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop shots. “I should’ve pressed up more and contested his shots,” Lopez admitted. “He played well.”
The change left Vucevic scoreless in the fourth, without so much as getting a single shot attempt.
“(Lopez) wasn’t guarding (Vucevic),” Hollins said flatly. “I want him to guard. Simple as that. Get on him. You know he’s shooting the ball, making shots, you’ve got to guard him. A couple of times he made him put it on the floor, but he didn’t do it enough. The game was tit-for-tat, and I just tried to take that away from him, which we did with KG by putting him in the game.”
Garnett said he saw something he wanted to stop in Vucevic’s game, “but if I told you it would be worthless.”
The Nets allowed the Magic to shoot 56 percent from the field heading into the fourth quarter, including 6-11 from three-point range. But despite Vucevic’s outburst, the Nets actually out-rebounded the Magic, and scored 22 second-chance points on the night to the Magic’s seven.