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Nets need to beat Magic and get help to make the playoffs

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"Vucevic's got the inside stuff!"
"Vucevic's got the inside stuff!"
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Bruh. The Nets had a chance to push themselves closer to the playoffs on Monday night against the Bulls, but instead, they were smoked by 27 points. It was the second night of a back-to-back and the day before, they lost by 23 to the Bucks. The Bulls clinched homecourt advantage in the first round (but not the three seed it must be noted) and helped the Celtics clinch the seventh seed. Brooklyn isn't dead yet, and we'll get into the details of that in a moment.

Coming in to the Barclays Center to close out the season will be the Orlando Magic. They're looking to hurry up and get the offseason started. They lost to Miami last time out and were apart of the lowest scoring quarter in league history against the Knicks on Saturday night.

Where to follow the game

It's baseball season (Go Mets) so YES Network and WFAN 101.9 FM will be occupied by the Yankees. WCBS 880 AM has you covered on the radio and head here to find which channel is broadcasting on TV. Tip is after 8.

Injuries

Alan Anderson has missed the last five games with an ankle injury and is questionable.

Evan Fournier is questionable as well for Orlando.

The game

Here's a look at what this season was like for these clubs:

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Orlando

Record

37-44 25-56

Pace

94.98 95.91

Offensive Efficiency

101.8 99.6

Defensive Efficiency

105.1 105.2

Turnover Rate

14.4 15.5

Assist Rate

16.4 16.3

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.9 23.1

Rebounding Rate

48.9 49

Free Throw Rate

26.7 23.1

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49 49.3

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.6 51.3

The Nets won the first game in November and the second in January.

Nothing like a chaotic final day to keep things interesting. Here are some games to watch:

The Western Conference playoff picture is confusing as hell, but luckily, Matt Moore of CBS Sports did the Lord's work and made this handy chart:


I'd be so mad if I were a member of the Grizzlies.

Heading back East, it's real simple for Brooklyn. Win and hope the Grizzlies beat the Pacers. Last night, the Pacers beat the Washington Wizards in double overtime and claimed eighth place in the East. Their win also eliminated the Miami Heat from playoff contention.

Even with the poor record, there is some hope going forward for Orlando. Their record is better than last season's and as Slam Magazine's Leo Sepkowitz wrote in the summer:

There are about a million routes the Magic can take going forward, and they all look pretty sweet. Orlando has elite prospects, massive cap space, attractive trade chips, absurd verticals and a smart front office that has preached patience and is beginning to see it pay off.

There's a lot to like with the Magic. The backcourt duo of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo are both young and still developing. Payton in particular is shooting a bit better from the field and has averaged eight assists a game in the second half. He still needs to become a better jump shooter and improve from the line, but he's only 21 and doesn't have the pressure of winning right now to worry about. As for Oladipo, he missed the first nine games of the season as he recovered from a late preseason injury, but he's appeared in every game since with the exception of a late January contest against Dallas. Oladipo has gotten to the rim more often this season while cutting down on the turnovers. With a little more development and some timely moves from the front office, Orlando should take another step forward next year.

When you're fighting to save your season, you can't have limits on your players. One run while a key contributor is off the court will KO your season and have you wondering why you didn't make that substitution earlier. With that in mind, Thaddeus Young, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Brook Lopez need to be on the court for at least 38 minutes tonight. Those are the team's four best players and they are the ones that have to get the Nets the win. Johnson and Williams in particular will have more eyes on them than usual after Paul Pierce criticized them by name in an interview with ESPN's Jackie Macmullin. A poor showing by them will only add to the criticism they get from the fanbase as well as basketball watchers across the globe.

Lionel Hollins mentioned after the 27 point beatdown to the Bulls that "the stats say it all." He is correct, and if I can add to that, the stats say that the pairing of Jarrett Jack and Williams hasn't worked at all. That pair has played 650 minutes together this year and Brooklyn is 10.3 points per 100 possessions worse off. That would be one of the worst in the league, but they haven't played enough minutes to reach that honor. Luckily (depending on your perspective), the Jack/Mason Plumlee (-9.4 points per 100 possessions, ninth in the league), Jack/Johnson (-9.3 points per 100 possessions, tenth in the league) and Jack/Lopez (-8.9 points per 100 possessions, twelfth in the league) are there to represent Brooklyn. Long story short, Jarrett Jack should not see much time on the court tonight.

Player to watch: Nikola Vucevic

Vucevic is one of the reasons why the Magic won the infamous Dwight Howard trade of 2013. He has averaged 19 points and ten rebounds on 52 percent shooting from the field in 34 minutes a night. Vucevic is great on the inside and can step out to the high post and make jumpers from there. He and the Magic's big free acquisition Channing Frye didn't really work out (-10.6 points per 100 possessions, fourth worst in the league), so the new coach might do well to avoid having them on the court together next season.

The last two games have overshadowed what has been a fantastic month and a half for Brook Lopez. He's only scored 25 points in the last two games as the Bucks and Bulls have made his shots on the inside difficult. The job still remains the same for the Nets: Get Lopez the ball as much as humanly possible. He's their best player and the more shots he gets, the better.

From the Vault

Shaquille O'Neal was inducted into the Magic Hall of Fame recently and mentioned that he has some regrets about leaving Orlando. Head back to the fall of 1993 and watch his first game with Penny Hardaway as they took on the Miami Heat.

More reading: Orlando Pinstriped Post and Indy Cornrows