The Brooklyn Nets weathered a third-quarter rally by the Orlando Magic on Monday night, but ultimately ran away with the game in the fourth to prevail by a 97-77 final. Deron Williams led the Nets with 20 points, while Brook Lopez added 16. The Nets shot 13-of-29 from three-point range, burying a Magic team playing without Arron Afflalo, its leading scorer.
Nikola Vučević had 18 points and nine rebounds, while J.J. Redick set a new career-high with 10 assists, punishing Brooklyn for blitzing him in the pick-and-roll and curling off screens.
The loss in Orlando's sixth in a row.
A calf injury to Afflalo gave Maurice Harkless the opportunity to start, and the St. John's product made the most of it: Harkless played at once energetically and within himself, rarely trying to do to much offensively. He hit consecutive three-pointers, one from each corner, in the third quarter to trim the Nets' lead to 12.
Orlando continued to chip away at Brooklyn's lead in the third as it strengthened its defense. Williams found open, spot-up looks hard to come by, and the Magic leveraged the Nets' post players away from the rim, forcing them to create for themselves off the dribble. Brooklyn also got sloppy with the ball, committing nine turnovers in the period. Those nine miscues led to nine Orlando points.
At the other end, Orlando picked the Nets' underwhelming defense apart with quick, crisp ball movement. Even if the Magic weren't hitting their shots, they at least made Brooklyn move, read, and react. On a baseline out-of-bounds set, Redick found Hedo Türkoğlu cutting to the rim for as low-flying an alley-oop layup as is humanly possible. That bucket trimmed Orlando's deficit to six points. The visitors would finish the third in a seven-point hole.
But Orlando's success was short-lived. Two three-pointers by former Magic swingman Keith Bogans helped the Nets open the fourth on a 9-0 scoring run. He added another triple minutes later to boost Brooklyn's lead to 17.
Williams got off to a hot start, shooting 5-of-6 fromx the floor for 13 points in the first quarter. It became clear that he would present Orlando even more of a challenge than normal at the 3:52 mark of the first, when he dribbled left to right along the baseline, turned around, and fired in a beautiful, fading two-pointer in transition. That shot came after Williams hit two of his first three three-point tries of the night. Brooklyn, as a team, went 7-of-13 from deep before halftime.
Orlando wasn't able to gain any ground when Williams took a rest to start the second period. MarShon Brooks and C.J. Watson helped Brooklyn expand its lead by three points during Williams' six-minute, three-second break. Those two kept the ball moving and made sure to feed reserve center Andray Blatche inside.
Interior defense was a particular problem for Orlando in Monday's loss. Brook Lopez had no problem establishing position inside on straight post-ups, but he also exploited Orlando's defense when one of its wings drew Lopez's defender away from him. The Stanford product shot 4-of-5 for 12 points in 17 easy first-half minutes.