Tonight’s Nets-Magic X-Factors

Heat Nets Basketball
After beating LeBron James & the Miami Heat, the Nets travel to Orlando. (AP)
After beating LeBron James & the Miami Heat, the Nets travel to Orlando. (AP)
After beating LeBron James & the Miami Heat, the Nets travel to Orlando. (AP)

While most of New York City is preoccupied with the New York Marathon (which runs right past Barclays Center), the Brooklyn Nets are in Orlando to take on the Orlando Magic, hoping to move above .500 for the first time this season.

It’s been quite some time since a matchup between these two teams was serious media fodder, not since Dwight Howard patrolled the lane in Orlando two seasons ago. Now, the matchup takes a backseat to the bench: Nets head coach Jason Kidd will coach his first official NBA game tonight, after serving a two-game suspension to start the season for pleading guilty to driving while impaired by alcohol.

When & Where: 6:00 P.M. tonight, Amway Center, Orlando
Watch: YES Network
Listen: CBS 880 AM

Three of our writers roundtable on tonight’s matchup:

1. The X-Factor for the Orlando Magic is…

  • Devin Kharpertian: Dwight Howard? Whoops, wait. Nikola Vucevic. The Magic center is arguably the team’s best player at this point, and put up a monster 22-point, 16-rebound, 3-block, 3-assist, 3-steal performance the night before Halloween against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Nets have the long and strong Brook Lopez to counter Vucevic inside, but if Lopez isn’t effective and Garnett is limited, Vucevic could have a field day inside.
  • William Rausch: Moe Harkless. Anything I say about Harkless carries the caveat that I am a lifelong St. John’s fan, but objectively Harkless needs to perform in order for the Magic to win. With Tobias Harris out, the offensively-challenged Magic need a scoring sidekick for Arron Afflalo to have any chance to pull off the upset and earn their first-ever win in Brooklyn. The 20-year-old athletic forward is still acclimating to NBA offense, but he scored 20 points in the Magic’s only win of the young season over the Pelicans on Friday. In the Magic’s two losses, he had 16 points combined.

    Plus, let’s pretend Harkless’s one season in college a borough over makes this game more personal for him.
  • Max Weisberg: Victor Oladipo. The rookie has looked promising through three games, averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and 1.7 steals per game. I haven’t watched his defense much in the pros, but he was one of the best wing defenders in his lone college season, and his tenacity may give Paul Pierce or Joe Johnson some issues on the offensive end.


2. The X-Factor for the Brooklyn Nets is…

  • Devin Kharpertian: Deron Williams’s ankle restriction. Williams and Magic point guard Jameer Nelson only went head-to-head once last season, and Williams dominated him, scoring 20 points on 8-12 shooting while dishing out 9 assists while holding Nelson to 3-12 shooting. If Williams is off his minutes restriction and 100%, he’ll make a significant difference tonight.
  • William Rausch: Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko is probably the X-factor more on a macro-scale for the season, rather than a single game in November against the lowly Magic, but this game is part of the season, right? Plus, using the gaudy sample size of 2 games, the Nets are undefeated when AK47 plays and winless when he does not suit up. (#RIPNetsPR)
  • Max Weisberg: Jason Kidd. His first game as a head coach in the NBA! Will he be nervous? Excited? Anxious? All three? IT’ll be interesting to see Kidd’s substitution patterns and his in-game mannerisms that he may not have shown in the preseason. If the game happens to be close in the 4th quarter, I would like to see some of his play-calls.


3. And the winner is…

  • Devin Kharpertian: Nets. This has all the makings of a trap game — a supposedly easy opponent, on the road, after a big victory — but I don’t think the Nets will fall into that trap. They’re just too talented and starting to figure out what can make their offense go.
  • William Rausch:Nets, 105-90.
  • Max Weisberg: Nets, if not by 30, than by 20. In the the fourth game of 2012-13 season, the Nets came to Orlando with a 1-2 record and beat the Magic by 39. Jerry Stackhouse hit 3 three-pointers and Toko Shengelia got his 3rd largest minutes total of the season with 7. Expect a repeat.