Kevin Durant is the best player on the planet, and the four-time NBA scoring champion did nothing Wednesday night in front of 14,000 fans inside the Amway Center to put that claim in any kind of doubt.
The 11-time All-Star scored 30 points in 29 minutes of action to help lead the Brooklyn Nets to a 123-90 victory of the hapless Orlando Magic. Durant only missed one attempt from the floor all evening (11-12 FGA’s, 2-2 3PTA’s, 6-7 FTA’s).
The Magic made just 4 of their 23 three-point field goal attempts Wednesday night (12.1%), shooting 38 percent from the floor overall in the contest.
All-Star guard James Harden recorded his third triple-double of the season, scoring 17 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 11 assists (in 29 minutes).
The Nets made sixteen three-point attempts in the game (to Orlando’s four), creating a difference of 36 points in that single-area.
“Other than their ability to make tough shots, I thought we turned the ball over (seventeen times),” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley said after the game. “Our ability to sit down and guard, we struggled a little bit there. But again, their shot-making, and we missed open shots - we’ve got to keep moving that ball to the second side.”
It was a sloppy beginning of the game for the Magic, who turned the ball over four times in the first four minutes of the game, while also shooting just 4 for 14 from the floor five minutes into the opening period.
Brooklyn was led early by their two All-NBA superstars, Harden scoring or assisting on 16 of the Nets first 21 points in the contest, and Durant - who scored 12 of his 30 points in the opening period.
Helping defensively onto Harden and/or Durant hurt the Magic in the first half, especially when veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge checked into the game. The center, who is playing in his 16th NBA season, was blazing hot in the second quarter - connecting on 6 of his first 9 attempts (15 points in the first half).
“He got hot pretty quick,” Mo Bamba told reporters after the game of Aldridge. “The game-plan was to try and get the other guys (other than Harden and Durant) to shoot the ball as much as possible. I think I was probably helping too much at the rim. The next time around against them, I think we need to just transition into our lates and our veers a little bit sooner.”
Behind Aldridge’s hot hand, and frigid shooting by Orlando from beyond the arc (2-16 3PTA’s in first half, 12.5%), the Nets were able to build a double-digit lead entering the half.
“We got some open looks, the shots just weren’t falling,” Mosley mentioned after the game. “They got some easy ones, they also hit some tough ones. At the end of the day, shots being made and shots being missed plays a big part in that.”
The Magic were led early by Mo Bamba, who scored 9 of his 14 in the first half, including one dazzling baseline spin on Durant that he converted for a thunderous dunk.
Mo Bamba spins away from KD for the dunk ️ pic.twitter.com/DTDgx2aSXp— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) November 11, 2021
Center Wendell Carter Jr. exited the game with 6:57 left in the third quarter after colliding with Nets forward Blake Griffin. Carter Jr. suffered what team officials called a “left eye abrasion”.
Coach Mosley didn’t provide an update on Carter Jr. after the game, simply stating how much it hurt the team’s game-plan Wednesday after losing him for the night.
The Nets, who outscored the Magic by five, seven, and seven over the first three periods of the game, broke things open in the fourth quarter - storming out of the gate on a 16-4 run that put the contest on ice.
If there was one bright spot for the Magic against the Nets Wednesday night, it was the defensive pressure applied by rookie forward Franz Wagner. Matched-up numerous times against Durant, Wagner recorded a career-high six steals in the contest. The six steals were the most by a Magic rookie since Elfrid Payton recorded six in 2014.
“He did well,” Terrence Ross told reporters after the game when asked about Wagner’s defensive performance guarding Durant. “He didn’t back down, he played as hard as he could. He made some good plays (on both ends of the ball), so Franz is really coming into his own. He’s looking really nice when he’s out there, he’s coming along good.”
Ross led the Magic with 17 points in 20 minutes off the bench (7-14 FGA’s, 3-6 FTA’s).
Orlando’s starting backcourt of Cole Anthony and Jalen Suggs shot a combined 6 for 20 from the floor against the Nets, including 0 for 9 on three-point field goal attempts.
“We just have to adjust and work to find things throughout the course of the game that work for (us), so I think we’re getting better at that,” Ross added after the game. “Tonight was a little stagnant, but I think it was just another teaching moment about how we have to play. Sometimes shots are not going to fall, you’ve still got to stick to your principles, stick to the way that you play.”
Aldridge finished with 21 points, leading a Brooklyn bench that combined to score 59 points.
“Watch the film. Come in tomorrow and put in some good work - whether it’s on our bodies or if it’s on the court or anything,” Bamba added after the game on what the team can learn from tonight moving forward.
After another two days off, the Magic are scheduled to wrap-up their five-game homestand against the Washington Wizards Saturday night.