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Magic 100, Nets 93: Magic prevail in battle of two undermanned teams

24 players were out. Chuma Okeke was in. And he helped the Magic snap a seven-game losing streak

NBA: Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In what was a historically undermanned basketball game, what was left of the Orlando Magic defeated what was left of the Brooklyn Nets.

With the two teams missing a combined 24 players due to injury or health and safety protocols, the Magic had just nine players available and the Nets eight.

Of those 17 players, seven were not on an NBA roster just days ago.

The roster decimation sweeping the league creates opportunity not only for those getting called up on emergency 10-day hardship contracts, but also for those still-available rotation players who have been struggling. Players like Chuma Okeke.

When the Magic were unable to pull away, allowing the Nets to tie it late, it was Okeke who drained a go-ahead three that propelled Orlando to a highly-unusual 100-93 victory to snap a seven-game losing streak.

It was the sixth victory of the season for the Magic, with three of them coming in New York.

Okeke finished with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, going 3 of 6 from deep, while adding six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Robin Lopez took a career-high 22 field goal attempts (topping his previous high of 20), finishing with a season-high 20 points to go along with 10 rebounds.

Lopez had a size advantage and took advantage against a Brooklyn team that was forced to use the following starting unit...

Lopez got off to a quick start, scoring the first six points for the Magic. An early 13-2 run gave Orlando a 19-10 lead in the first quarter. A three by Mychal Mulder with seconds left in the quarter sent the Magic into the second with a 26-17 lead.

Both teams struggled from the field in the opening quarter (Magic at 36 percent, Nets at 34.9 percent), as Brooklyn understandably had its lowest scoring first quarter of the season.

The Magic at one point in the second used a lineup of Mulder, Aleem Ford, BJ Johnson, Hassani Gravett and Admiral Schofield, Mychal Mulder for what was in no way garbage-time minutes.

Still, the Orlando lead grew, increasing to 40-25 following a 7-0 run that included a Gary Harris three, Ford fade away and Mulder reverse layup.

Blake Griffin then scored 11 straight Nets points, capped by back-to-back threes that pulled Brooklyn within 44-38. Griffin, with 14 points at the half, was the only Net to hit a three in the first half, going 3-for-8 from deep. His teammates combined to go 0 of 16, with Patty Mills going 0-for-7, though he had 12 first-half points.

The Magic, which went into the half with a 50-44 lead, opened the third on 10-2 run. The lead reached 17 when a three by Gravett made it 67-50.

Old friend James Ennis, signed to a 10-day contract by the Nets, later hit the first of three straight triples for the Nets. After a 10-0 Nets run that cut the Magic lead to five, Ford responded with a three to push the lead to 74-66 after three.

Mills opened the fourth with a three to make it a five-point game. Gary Harris then drained a jumper and Johnson and Schofield each followed with a three to push the lead to 82-71.

Nursing a six-point lead, Okeke drove the lane for the dunk. Seconds later, after a steal, Okeke threw down another dunk to give the Magic an 88-80 lead with 6:39 left. Following an Okeke three and Lopez putback, the Magic seemed to be pulling away with a 93-84 lead and 4:10 left.

But the Nets answered with a 9-0 run, capped on a game-tying three with 2:33 remaining by David Duke Jr, who scored 16 of his 18 points in the fourth.

That set the stage for Okeke. After a near turnover on a post-up attempt, Lopez kicked it out to Okeke, who stepped back and hit the three with the shot clock winding down for a 96-93 lead with 1:11 to go.

Franz Wagner, who struggled from the field on a night where he was forced into being the Magic’s lead ball-handler on a gutted roster, sealed the win by driving the lane and converting an off-balance circus shot in traffic...

Wagner finished with his first double-double, posting 14 points and a season-high 11 rebounds to go along with six assists.

Harris added 17 points for the Magic, who shot 41.5 percent to top the Nets (38.2 percent, including just 9 of 46 from three). The Magic got contributions in some form from all of their new additions, whether it was clutch threes, impressive handles or defensive stops. Ford finished with eight points, Gravett and Johnson each had seven and Schofield added five.

It was Okeke’s performance that was most encouraging, as he appears to be returning to form after an incredibly slow start to his second season.

The Magic need him, and any other healthy and available player, to continue to step up as they navigate this challenging period. It continues on Monday in Toronto.