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Nets Barely Reach .500 with 100-98 Nail-Biter Victory in Orlando

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Brooklyn Nets, or whoever's making their wishes, had the first part of their New Years resolution --to keep winning-- fulfilled with a 100-98 victory over the Orlando Magic Friday night to start 2015. It ended with a much closer score than it should've, but the Nets found a way to dig out the victory and finally reach .500 for the first time since November 15, when they were 4-4. They committed 22 turnovers, but dished out 26 assists and shot 57% from the field. It was a picture perfect three quarters for Brooklyn, but a nightmarish fourth.

Deron Williams was the anchor of a 46-39 scoring advantage for the Nets' bench, most of it coming in the middle quarters. He scored nine of his points in the second quarter, but drilled a thee-pointer late in the third to give Brooklyn a 26-point lead, their largest of the night. The three gave the Nets a 34-21 advantage in the quarter and a 25-point lead heading into the fourth. You'd think the game was over, right? Wrong.

The Magic outscored Brooklyn 26-9 through nine minutes of the fourth quarter, which cut the 25-point deficit down to eight. It was a 16-0 run, then 22-2 run that cut the Nets' big lead down to four with 1:30 remaining. The Nets were no longer playing to win the game at that point, but rather, playing to avoid a loss.

They let Orlando cut it to two with three seconds remaining following an Elfrid Payton three-pointer, but Brooklyn inbounded the ball to a wide-open Jarrett Jack, who threw the ball up in the air -- a veteran move to burn out the clock. The Magic outscored the Nets 37-14 in the fourth, proving to be Brooklyn's worst quarter of the season.

They couldn't have gotten it done without Mason Plumlee.

Plumlee once again showed us why he was Brooklyn's MVP in 2014 and perhaps the main reason that the team turned things around. He was held scoreless in the first quarter, but finished the game with 18 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, two assists and one steal on 9-of-10 shooting.

Behind Plumlee, they're winners of three straight and six out of their last seven. Safe to say, the Brooklyn Nets are playing their best basketball of the season, especially in the second quarter's.

They outscored Orlando 30-15 in the second quarter after holding them to 4-of-15 shooting from the field with an 18-2 scoring advantage in the paint. They worked off Deron Williams, who scored nine points in the second quarter to help contribute to Brooklyn shoot 60% in the first half. They've outscored their last three opponents in the second quarter by a total score of 91-45, mostly behind the duo of Brook Lopez and Deron Williams -- both coming off the bench and taking advantage of weaker second units.

D-Will finished with 16 points and seven assists in 29 minutes. Refreshing for Lionel Hollins and co. to see their former star back on his horse. With Williams, Brook Lopez also came off the bench and made a huge impact. Lopez went for 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks on 8-of-9 shooting.

The Nets did the little things right. They outrebounded the Magic 45-37, outscored them 50-42 in the paint and held them to just 42% shooting. Nikola Vucevic, who finished with 27 & 12 in his last outing vs. Brooklyn, was held to 10 points and four rebounds on 4-of-10 shooting.

Victor Oladipo on the other hand went off for 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting. He led all Magic scorers, despite six other Orlando players finishing in double figures. Elfrid Payton, who led the Magic's fourth quarter charge, just missed out on a triple-double, scoring 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting He also handed out 10 assists and grabbed nine rebounds.

No one in the Nets locker room was popping champagne afterwards, but after the long road back to . 500, there was satisfaction.

"It’s better to learn in a win,’’ said Plumlee.

"First three quarters were great for us," Williams said. "We played well on both ends of the floor. We created a lot of easy opportunities, especially on offense. Defense was great. When you're down, you're kind of playing carefree. We looked like we were playing just to hang on instead of going ahead and closing out the game."

"They just kept attacking us," Lionel Hollins said. "A couple of their guys got hot and started hitting 3s. ... But that's basketball, that's competition. I thought our guys showed a lot of poise at the end."

Quarter by quarter summary:

First quarter ... The Nets turned the ball over four times in their first four possessions to start the game. It looked as if they left their game back in 2014, but they hit on their first four field goal attempts to get back into the game. They shot 10-for-16 in the first quarter, but turned the ball over seven times and surrendered 12 points in the paint that gave the Magic a 25-22 lead.

Second quarter ... The Nets have played extremely well in second quarter's of late. Against their last two opponents, they outscored the teams by a total of 31 points. Tonight, they held the Magic to just 15 points in the quarter on 4-of-15 shooting. As a whole, the Nets held Orlando to 34% shooting from the field.

Brooklyn on the other hand scored 30 points in the quarter, behind 60% team shooting and 10 points and four assists from Deron Williams in 14 minutes of action. Brook Lopez, also off the bench, scored seven points and six rebounds, alone with Mirza Teletovic who scored seven points as well. Brooklyn's bench outscored Orlando's bench 26-10, which gave them a double digit lead heading into halftime.

Score at the half: Nets 52, Magic 40.

Third quarter ... The Magic cut the deficit to seven within the first few minutes of the quarter, but from that point on, the Nets took control and never looked back. Following a three pointer from Deron Williams late in the quarter, Brooklyn's lead was all the way up to 26. They outscored the Magic 34-21 in the quarter and led 86-61 heading into the fourth quarter.

Fourth quarter ... The Magic weren't giving up. The Magic outscored Brooklyn 26-9 through nine minutes of the fourth quarter, which cut the 25-point deficit down to eight. It was a 16-0 run, then 22-2 run that cut the Nets' big lead down to four with 1:30 remaining. The Nets were no longer playing to win the game at that point, but rather, playing to avoid a loss. The Nets scrapped out just enough defensive stops to barely win the game. Way too close for the guys in white.

Final score: Nets 100, Magic 98. The Nets have now won six of their last seven and eight of their last 12.  With Indiana's win over the Bucks, the Nets are now virtually tied for sixth in the East and one of only two teams in the Atlantic with a .500 or better record.

For more on the Orlando Magic, check them out at Orlando Pinstriped Post.