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Nets head to Magic Kingdom after win

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Not bad, not bad at all. The Nets beat a Lakers team and the difference between the two teams came down to mental toughness. The Lakers coach said his team lacked it. The Nets coach said his team had it.

The Nets played good (enough) defense, particularly late. For the first time since early November, they held a team under 100 points, 97 to be precise. They held Lakers to 38.5 percent shooting, 22.2 percent from three.

Brooklyn is now 2-2 in the last four games, 3-5 in the last eight. That’s progress, considering the Nets have played with their regular starting lineup exactly once in those games.

Jeremy Lin didn’t play vs. the Lake Show and as of Thursday night is questionable for the Magic.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7:00 ET.

Injuries

Like we said, Lin is questionable, but he sounded like he could make it work. On the other hand, he’s not taking risks.

“I felt good today, so we’ll see how it responds tomorrow,” Lin said. “No guarantees right now. Something like this you just wait to see how it responds.

“It’s not anything serious or long term,” Lin added. “Just wake up tomorrow, and if I feel good we’ll go through the process. If not, we’ll just keep on day-to-day. But something like this you have to see how it responds.

Everyone else is healthy although Chris McCullough is with the Long Island Nets.

Nikola Vucevic is questionable for the Magic. The Magic may experiment with Serge Ibaka at center if he can’t plan.

The game

IF the Nets win ...

 It would mark their first consecutive wins of the season.

 It would snap Brooklyn’s seven-game road losing streak (last road win: November 12 over Phoenix).

 It would snap Brooklyn’s four-game losing streak to Orlando. Prior to dropping all four matchups last season, the Nets had compiled a 9-2 mark against the Magic in the Brooklyn era (2012-16).

 It would help the Nets avoid their first three-game road losing streak to the Magic since dropping eight straight in Orlando.

If it’s close, look for the Nets to either prevail or go down fighting. Here’s an interesting stat from STATS LLC. If you want to quantify mental toughness, here’s one way...

For the season, Brooklyn has been surprisingly good late in games. According to NBA.com, the Nets are 6-7 in games that are within five points with five minutes to play. They score 106.8 points per 100 possessions in those moments. Brooklyn, surprisingly, has been plenty able to score so far this season and score late in games to pull out a surprising number of wins.

The Magic are 11-16, playing below the level the pundits predicted, meaning mediocre. They added some interesting veterans like Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and D.J. Augustin in hopes that they would push their young stars Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Elfrid Payton.

But it’s not working that well. They’ve lost five of their last six and have a losing record at home. In fact, they’ve lost six straight at home.

In other word, the Nets have a chance to get better, particularly since they play the 76ers on Sunday.

And a fun fact for Croatian fans: the game will feature four players who could compete for Croatia in FIBA Eurobasket next summer: Bojan Bogdanovic and Justin Hamilton (a dual US-Croatian citizen) for the Nets; Mario Hezonja and Damjan Rudez for the Magic. The Magic are supposedly marketing Hezonja, a 21-year-old small forward who they took in the lottery last year, but has disappointed.

Player to watch:

The Magic had high hopes for Aaron Gordon this year. Who didn’t after last year’s Dunk Contest? But until Wednesday, he had been a bit disappointing, averaging less than 10 points. Then, against the Clippers he exploded, with a career high 33 points on 13-of-21 shooting, including 4-of-8 shooting.

Can he become more consistent? Hard to tell. The game before, against the Hawks, he had only seven. In fact, this month, Gordon had two games of nine points, a game of eight as well as a game of five. Of course, he is only 21!

From the Vault

Remember the Dwightmare? The Nets wanted Dwight Howard bad in 2011-12 and it got close ... several times. So close that a Nets fan came up with a commercial featuring Howard and his buddy, Deron Williams. So much hope in this video ... and disappointment.

More reading at Orlando Pinstriped Post