Nets offense wilts in fourth during 83-77 loss to Magic


Brook Lopez posts 17 points and 8 rebounds as the Nets fall to the Magic.Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Brook Lopez posts 17 points and 8 rebounds as the Nets fall to the Magic.

The Brooklyn Nets have tried every trick in the book this week. Different colored jerseys. Switching their first half basket. Brook Lopez got a haircut. But no amount of superstitions could change how they’ve played in the fourth quarter.

They carried a slim two-point lead into the final 12 minutes, but the energy that emanated from Brooklyn’s second unit in the first three quarters was nonexistent down the stretch with the starters back in.

It was another pitifully low-scoring, 83-77, affair with the Nets putting up a limp 15 points in the final quarter while allowing Victor Oladipo to hit two open threes.

This all came after Brooklyn showed flashes of actual NBA-worthy team defense when they limited the Magic to just 11 points in the second quarter.

Every Net who entered the game scored, but it wasn’t collectively enough to stop an Orlando Magic team playing without a true starting point guard.

Brook Lopez once again led the Nets with 17 points, but he shot 6-of-15 from the floor and was often swarmed by three Orlando players in the paint. Thaddeus Young, no longer a double-double machine, battled foul trouble and had another mediocre game with 11 points and nine rebounds.

While point guard play has been a point of contention since the loss of Jarrett Jack to an ACL tear, there were moments of promise Friday night.

Shane Larkin was aggressive early, getting to the free throw line twice in the first half, finishing the game with 12 points, the highest since he’s been a starter. Donald Sloan was able to get into the paint as well, where he dumped off to Willie Reed and Thomas Robinson for easy buckets.

Tobias Harris (9 points, 11 rebounds) goes to the hoop.Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

Tobias Harris (9 points, 11 rebounds) goes to the hoop.

Some life was injected into the Barclays Center crowd as they watched two buzzer-beaters at the end of the second and third quarters, the latter on a long Wayne Ellington three that banked in. But that life was leaving the building in droves before the final buzzer even had a chance to sound.

Coming off an ugly loss to Toronto where the Nets scored just 36 points in the first half, they needed an offensive pick-me-up. There were no miracles on that end of the floor — Brooklyn scored only three points more on another night where they shot below 40% from the floor.

Two teams without polished point guards came into Friday’s game with their offenses in tenuous positions. On a four-game losing skid, the Magic were without Elfrid Payton, who is averaging 11 points and six assists for the Magic, for the third straight game, and Oladipo stepped in at the point.

Though Oladipo is fourth on the team in scoring, he isn’t a natural ball handler, and Orlando’s ball movement hasn’t been as crisp as it was during a 13-5 stretch through December.

“Our ball movement is starting to slide, but that was happening with Elfrid out there as well,” Orlando coach Scott Skiles said before Friday’s game. “We feel like (Victor) has done a good job at it. It’s not natural for him, but you can play him anywhere.”

Oladipo plagued the Nets all night, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-11 from the floor, though the second unit did leave Orlando struggling to create fluid ball movement.

Somebody’s losing streak had to end tonight, but it wasn’t Brooklyn. This makes nine straight at home for the Nets.



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