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Nets 108, Magic 96: Magic can’t contain Nets’ bench, drop fifth straight

In a battle of two shorthanded teams, some of the Nets’ reserves had career days

Brooklyn Nets v Orlando Magic Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

As if the crowd-less setting, afternoon tip-off time, and meaningless outcome didn’t already give this game a Summer League feel, the starting lineups certainly added to it.

The Magic - who dressed only 10 players, with each getting minutes in the first quarter - were without Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Terrence Ross, Michael Carter-Williams, Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac. The Nets – already without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and so on – had only nine players available after giving the day off to Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Jamal Crawford and Garrett Temple.

When the NBA restart schedule came, this game was circled as one of great importance. But with Brooklyn having clinched the seventh seed and the Magic locked into the eight, it ended up not meaning much of anything.

But it clearly meant something to the “Heart & Hustle” Nets.

In what was essentially a free agent showcase, with the two teams starting a combined seven free-agents-to-be, it was a game where role players and reserves with something to prove got an extended opportunity to do so.

And it quickly became the Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot game.

Luwawu-Cabarrot, averaging 7.2 points per game this season, scored 12 of the Nets’ first 16 points and finished the first quarter with 17 points on 6-for-8 shooting, connecting on 3 of 5 three-point attempts. He orchestrated a 16-0 Nets run that turned a 17-13 Orlando lead into a 29-17 Brooklyn advantage. Luwawu-Cabarrot’s three with 1:13 remaining opened a 34-20 lead. The Nets hit their final five threes of the quarter after starting 1-for-10, and closed the quarter on a 21-5 run.

The Magic, meanwhile, shot just 26 percent in the first quarter, missing their final six three-point attempts after connecting on their first two of the game. One of the main objectives over the final two seeding games is to get players struggling with their rhythm back in sync before the playoffs, namely Markelle Fultz, who entered shooting 40 percent in bubble play.

Fultz, who again came off the bench, was aggressive but inefficient early, going 1 of 6 from the field in the first quarter.

Things didn’t improve much for the Magic in the second quarter as the Nets’ lead reached 21.

James Ennis was the Magic’s lone first-half bright spot from a shooting perspective, going 3-for-3 from the field, including both attempts from deep, to lead the way with 10 points. The Magic overall finished the half shooting 29.5 percent from the field, including 4 of 12 from three (33.3%), and had nine turnovers. Fultz went 2-for-10 for seven points and Vucevic went 2-for-9 for five points.

The Nets took a 60-43 lead into the break, their largest halftime lead of the season, and shot 50 percent from the field in the first half.

The Magic chipped away in the third, with a pair of buckets by Vucevic capping a 9-0 run that cut the lead to 65-53. The Nets responded rebuilding their 20-point lead with 3:25 left in the third. Fultz came alive late in the third, hitting a pull-up jumper, a three and a floater to help pull the Magic get within 11. Orlando, which shot 50 percent in the third, closed on a 13-6 (including Vic Law’s first career bucket) run to pull within 85-72 heading into the fourth.

The Magic never threatened in the fourth, unable to get within single digits over the game’s final 39 minutes.

The Nets’ got a big lift from their four-man bench, which outscored the Magic reserves 63-46 as each player finished in double figures. That included career days by Jeremiah Martin (career-high 24 points and career-high six assists) and Dzanan Musa (career-high 17 points). Luwawu-Cabarrot finished with 24 on 8-for-12 shooting.

Fultz finished with 18 points in 22 minutes, his scoring high for bubble play, but shot just 7-for-18, including 1 of 4 from three. Wes Iwundu added 18 points and five rebounds, and spent a bulk of the fourth jawing with the Nets after he commit what seemed like an intentional flagrant foul on Martin.

Vucevic finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Khem Birch added 12 points and nine rebounds. B.J. Johnson had eight points and seven rebounds in 19 minutes. Gary Clark, coming off a career-high 15 points against the Celtics, was limited to two points on just two field goal attempts. D.J. Augustin’s struggles from the field continued as he shot 1-for-8 for six points.

The Magic shot 38.6 percent from the field and 30.4 percent from three (7 of 23), and had 17 turnovers.

Orlando dropped its fifth straight game to fall to 2-5 in bubble play. The Nets improved to a very impressive 5-2, gotta give credit to former Magic coach Jacque Vaughn for that.

The Magic wrap up the seeding game portion of the schedule on Thursday at 9 p.m. against the New Orleans Pelicans. It was expected to be the Magic’s first look at Zion Williamson, but with the Pelicans already eliminated from the postseason, and with Zion out for Tuesday’s game against the Kings, it’s unlikely we see him.

For the Magic, it will be one final warm up before they get a week or two worth of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks. Hopefully Fultz gets the start, some injured players return to get some minutes in, and the Magic are able to snap their losing streak before heading into the playoffs.