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Nets lose to Magic in Summer League opener, 86-80, as Dawson shines

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Brooklyn Nets

In a game where many of the Nets most intriguing players had to sit for a variety of reasons, Orlando defeated Brooklyn, 86-80, Friday evening in the opening game of the Las Vegas Summer League at Cox Pavilion.

Even before the game started, five of the Jacque Vaughn-coached Nets players were ruled out of action.

Ding Yanyuhang, the two-time Chinese Basketball Association MVP, left the team after experiencing recurring knee tendinitis and returned to China; Juan Pablo Vaulet, who’s been plagued by foot problems since being drafted by the Nets in 2015, had to sit with foot pain; Rodions Kurucs, the Nets second round pick, couldn’t play because his buyout with F.C. Barcelona hasn’t been finalized; and the Nets top two players, Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert, sat as part of a planned rest day.

Vaughn said Vaulet will be re-evaluated Saturday.

The Nets also revealed that Dzanan Musa, their first round pick, wouldn’t have been able to play since his buyout isn’t done yet either.

Still, those who did play put up a good fight against a Magic team that featured athletic bigs Mo Bamba, and Jonathan Isaacs, the No. 6 picks in the last two drafts. The Nets went out early, leaning on defense and some nifty offense by Shawn Dawson. The 6’6” lefty swingman from Israel finished with 20 on 8-of-18 shooting in a mere 18 minutes. The 24-year-old started strong, scoring 11 points in the first quarter, surprising the Magic with his quickness to the rim and his athleticism once he got there. But the combination of Bamba and Isaac hurt the Nets and they played from behind most of the game.

“We won three out of the four quarters, but that second quarter got ahold of us,” said Vaughn before discussing Dawson’s game. “He had a good start and he did it multiple ways — in transition, attacking the basket, the ability to shoot the ball, to get out in transition and attack the rim. So some good things from him.”

The game was sloppy with so many key players out and limited practice time. The Nets finished with 16 turnovers to the Magic’s six. They also couldn’t finish at the rim, no doubt a function of Magic’s athletic bigs. They hit only 37.7 percent of their shots. From deep, however, they made a respectable 37.4 percent.

Other than Dawson, a few others made an impression.

Tyler Davis, the undrafted 6’10” big man out of Texas A&M, finished with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting, hitting his only 3-pointer, in 19 minutes,

Theo Pinson, the 6’7” point guard who the Nets have given a $50,000 guarantee, played 24 minutes —second to Milton Doyle — scoring nine points, grabbing seven rebounds and handing out three assists. He hit only 1-of-6 from deep, the weakest part of his game, but he seemed to be encouraged to shoot.

Doyle. who played well for the Long Island Nets last year, tallied 32 minutes and also finished with nine points, hitting three of his six 3-pointers but missing all five of his 2-pointers.

Finally, Yuta Watanabe, the 6’9” stretch 4 out of George Washington (and Japan), had eight points and four rebounds in 20 minutes and played valiantly against the Orlando bigs.

Like their regular season colleagues, the Nets kept coming back, getting to within three near the end of the game but also like the big team couldn’t find a closer to get it done.

Dawson said he hoped his performance would lead to something more.

“I’ve matured,’’ Dawson said. “It’s a lot about my experience. I’ve learned the game a lot better,” Dawson said. “Plus, I’ve got some advantage because I’m a European. I’m used to European basketball. I’m a driver, and suddenly the paint is open so you can’t just stand there, I feel a lot more comfortable. I love their play.”

There was a smaller contingent of Nets players on hand for the league opener. We counted D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Isaiah Whitehead, who no doubt would have been the court if hadn’t had wrist surgery just after the season. He’s expected to be ready next month.

They all sat courtside...

Russell was interviewed during the first half by NBA TV’s Dennis Scott. He talked about how with LeBron James in L.A., the East is wide open and gave the Nets a chance at the playoffs.

“I think anything is possible. I think the opportunity is wide open - we’ve got a lot of young guys that are capable,” he told Scott. Later he added: “Everybody’s got two-feet in.”

DLo spoke as well about Kenny Atkinson, saying he felt comfortable with Atkinson from “day 1.” “He’s a players’ coach, he’s a positive guy - we’re growing at the same time together,”

The Nets play again at 7 p.m. Saturday, vs. the Thunder. when at least LeVert and Allen should be back in the line-up. The game will be televised on NBA TV.