The 17-22 Brooklyn Nets may have had one of their best wins of the season Monday afternoon against their cross-bridge rival New York Knicks, but they won’t have much down time to enjoy it: they’ll come to Barclays Center in the snowstorm to take on the 11-30 Orlando Magic in Brooklyn.
The two teams have played once before this season, in what feels like a decade ago: the Magic embarrassed the Nets 107-86 in Orlando, capped by this 360 freewheeling dunk from rookie Victor Oladipo.
Surprise victory over the Nets aside, the Magic’s record speaks for itself. Before beating the Boston Celtics 93-91 on Sunday, the team had lost ten straight, eight by ten points or more. They have one of the league’s worst offenses, made even worse for their inability to extend possessions: they only grab an offensive rebound on 21.6 percent of their misses, third-worst in the league, and turn the ball over 1.4 percent more than their opponents.
Those may seem like small numbers, but they help contribute to the Magic shooting three fewer shots and one fewer free throw attempt per game than their opponents. That adds up over time.
To make matters worse, the Magic will go without their best rebounder, Nikola Vucevic, who suffered a concussion and will miss his seventh straight game. They’ve been out-rebounded by over five rebounds a game with Vucevic out during that stretch.
The Magic do have some weapons. Oladipo, the rookie who threw down that 360 dunk you see above, was the second overall pick and has been one of the league’s better rookies in a weak class. But the team’s best player is guard Arron Afflalo, one of Joe Johnson’s competitors for an All-Star guard spot.
Despite his team’s awful play, Afflalo’s put together an excellent season as their first option, averaging 20.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.9 assists in 37.7 minutes per game. His PER of 18.4 ranks second behind Dwyane Wade in the Eastern Conference among guards. But the team isn’t significantly better with him on or off the court, which doesn’t speak well to his on-court impact.
Meanwhile, the Nets have stumbled onto a winning formula in 2014: go a little smaller, a little slower, and a little longer. They’re defending at a top-5 rate in 2014, the apex coming in Monday afternoon’s victory over the Knicks. They allowed the Knicks to shoot just 33.8 percent from the field and hit just 24 field goals — that’s a made shot every two minutes — both season lows for New York.
Given the general trajectory of both teams, I’d expect tonight to go much differently than November 3rd.
Tipoff at 7:30 P.M. EST.