After playing with fire the last three games, the Nets finally got burned. The Nets had found ways to grind out the last three results despite some nervous moments. But against the Magic, the
After playing with fire the last three games, the Nets finally got burned.
The Nets had found ways to grind out the last three results despite some nervous moments. But against the Magic, the hottest team in the entire NBA suddenly went ice-cold and lost 121-113 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
Kyrie Irving had 43 points, but they went to waste. The rest of the Nets got good looks, but just couldn’t get them to go down.
The Nets shot just 10-for-37 from 3-point range. They let the Magic — who came in dead last in the league in field goal percentage — go 21-for-40 from deep.
James Harden had 19 points and nine assists, but got in foul trouble.
The Nets (28-14) had gone 14-1 in their last 15 games. They had won an NBA-best six in a row and a team-record eight straight on the road. But all that came to an end.
“Still got a long way to go, and our team, I’ve said this many times, has to feel like underdogs and that we have something to prove at that end of the floor forevermore,” Steve Nash warned beforehand. “That’s just the way we have to build that resolve and that commitment to defending.
“I think a part of this [hot] stretch is that commitment, that understanding, that belief that we can’t just trade baskets. We may do that in stretches, but we snap out of it quick, and our commitment is growing, and I think guys have really taken to heart what it takes to improve defensively, and we’re improving.”
The Nets fell behind, 25-18, right out of the gate, letting the Magic hit five of their first seven 3-pointers. They did rally within seven unanswered points to pull even on a Landry Shamet 3-pointer, but the tie was short-lived. The Nets watched Orlando pull away and go up 48-36 on an Evan Fournier 3-pointer with 7:09 left in the half.
Granted, an 8-0 run got the Nets back within striking distance at 52-49, and they briefly retook the lead at 65-64 when Irving opened the second half with a 3-pointer. But briefly was the operative word.
From that point on, the Nets fell apart. They allowed a 29-11 extended run over the next eight minutes, much of it with Harden stuck on the bench with four fouls.
The Nets shot just 3-for-14 during that game-changing run, while the Magic hit 10 of 14 on the other end. By the time Nikola Vucevic’s free throws made it 93-76, there was 3:51 left in the third quarter.
After having stormed back from a 16-point deficit just a game earlier to win at Indiana, this time the Nets had even less time to try to pull off a great escape.
Trailing 103-84 after three quarters, the Nets ripped off an 11-0 run to open the fourth. The spurt included a jaw-dropping, full-court touchdown pass from Harden to Nic Claxton that left Harden roaring and pumping his fists and the Magic scurrying for a timeout.
The Nets kept coming, with an Irving bucket extending the run to 16-1 and cutting the deficit to 104-100. But that was as close as they got.
“Some of what they do is different,” Magic coach Steve Clifford said. “It’s just the greatness of two players you can’t possibly guard one-on-one, so the details going into that are more difficult.”
The Nets were facing not just a tired team, but also a bad one. The Magic had been mired in a nine-game losing skid that matched their worst since Dec. 8-26, 2017. That included a loss at the Knicks on Thursday, with the Nets getting them on the tail end of a back-to-back.
“They’re very well coached. I’ve known Steve Clifford for a number of years now and played for him with Lakers; outstanding coach,” Nash said. “Crazy injury season for them. So they’re starting, I think, to get a little bit of bodies back and talent back in the roster.
“So you know that at some point here, it’s going to get better for them. So it’s our job to not allow it to be [against us], to continue to grow, get better at everything we try to accomplish each evening, defensively in particular. And if we have the right application, take care of business, we should have a chance to win.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Brian Lewis