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Magic vs. Nets preview: Magic look to the Brooklyn Nets for retribution

The Magic fell short late in heart-breaking fashion to the Nets last Friday. Can they reverse their fortune in Brooklyn?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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Just last Friday night, the Orlando Magic raced out to a 21-point second quarter advantage behind the exquisite play of Aaron Gordon. However, as his back stiffness reared its head late in the third quarter, the Nets quickly eviscerated a Magic 95-81 advantage with 1:42 to play in the third quarter.

With just under nine minutes to play in the fourth, the lead had fizzled to but four points, 100-96, and the Magic couldn’t get stops when they needed them, especially against D’Angelo Russell and his game-high 40 points.

Evan Fournier’s game-tying runner harmlessly clanked off the back of the rim as time expired leading to yet another heart-breaking loss two nights after losing in overtime to the Pistons.

At 20-27, the Orlando Magic hardly seem a candidate for the Eastern Conference playoffs, especially considering their recent streak of inconsistency and repeated blown leads (seven by 15 points or more). Losers of three of our, and seven of their past ten, the season seems to be evading the Magic’s grasp.

And yet, here they are, still 2.5 games out of eighth place, with yet another opportunity to shorten the gap against the Brooklyn Nets. Gordon, who has missed the previous two games due to the aforementioned stiffness, could be back in the lineup when the Magic take the court in Brooklyn.

The recipe remains the same. It’s hard to conceive the Magic lost when looking at the stat sheet. Decidedly winning in field goal percentage, rebounds, and turnovers should have led to a Magic victory.

But the Magic couldn’t slow Russell, who kept the Nets in the game in the first half, scoring 24 of his points in that frame. The Magic elected to match-up Fournier and may instead elect to position Jonathon Simmons on him should Gordon sit out again. Even Wes Iwundu possesses the physicality and most importantly length to disrupt Russell’s timing.

Gordon did a masterful job of chasing Joe Harris, minimizing him to but 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting. Fournier will likely slide to him, and will have to fight all night to keep the relentless sniper from getting his looks early and often. He presents more of a size similarity to D.J. Augustin, but the Magic could seek to hide Augustin on Graham, who doesn’t have near the scorching touch from deep (21.6%). Augustin’s lack of length on the perimeter should be less of a liability, and help defense from Jonathan Isaac and Nikola Vucevic should limit Graham’s ability to convert anywhere near the restricted area.

Isaiah Briscoe should have his hands full once more against Spencer Dinwiddie, who proved pivotal in the Nets’ come-from-behind victory late.

The Nets are 49-62 lifetime against the Magic, though they have won four of the past five.

The Nets are 13-11 at home this season, while the Magic are 8-14 on the road.

Key to the game:

  • Limit Russell, Dinwiddie
  • Win the paint
  • Finish strong

Injuries:

Magic - Aaron Gordon (questionable, back), Nets - Jared Dudley (out, hamstring)

Brooklyn Orlando
Pace: 98.6 (20th) Pace: 97.2 (26th)
ORtg: 111.6 (13th) ORtg: 106.6 (24th)
DRtg: 111.5 (19th) DRtg: 110.2 (14th)
Projected Starters:
Brooklyn Orlando
PG - D'Angelo Russell PG - D.J. Augustin
SG - Joe Harris SG - Evan Fournier
SF - Treveon Graham F - Jonathon Simmons
F - Rodions Kurucs PF - Jonathan Isaac
C - Jarrett Allen C - Nikola Vucevic
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Where To Watch

What: Orlando Magic (20-27) at Brooklyn Nets (25-23)

Where: Barclays Center - Brooklyn, NY

When: Wednesday, January 23, 2018, 7:30 p.m.

How: Fox Sports Florida