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Magic, DLo’s victim on Friday, arrive in Brooklyn for return match

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s like, kind of hilarious how good this Nets team is right now. Remember when they lost eight straight games? Me neither. A 123-94 win against the Kings bumped Brooklyn’s record up to 25-23 for the season, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference, and they now have scored more points than their opponents. The win was their fourth straight and the Nets have won eight of their last ten... 2019 has been very fun so far.

The Orlando Magic, who the Nets recently beat, are coming to Brooklyn for a little mid-week match-up. Orlando, Washington, and Detroit are all within a half game of each other and just outside of the current playoff picture, and Orlando being the youngest and most future-oriented out of those three would love to pull away and once again compete for one of the final couple of playoff spots. Plus they’ll be looking for a revenge win in Brooklyn, always dangerous. Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7:30 pm, ET. Tonight is also Pride Night at Barclays.

Injuries

Caris LeVert (foot) Allen Crabbe (knee) Jared Dudley (hamstring) and Dzanan Musa (shoulder) are out, but Musa has been sent back to Long Island where he will begin a rehab tour.

Aaron Gordon (back) has been day-to-day and missed Monday’s game while old friend Timofey Mozgov (knee) is out for a while. Gordon said Tuesday that barring any setbacks, he’ll play Wednesday night.

The Game

The Magic were the victims of the best game of D’Angelo Russell’s young career, and it would be a lot of fun if we saw an encore performance. Orlando has a weak guard rotation, especially at point, where DJ Augustin and Isaiah Briscoe play most of the minutes. DLo and Spencer Dinwiddie should be hunting for shots again in this one, generating offense and scoring against a team that just doesn’t pose much of a threat as far as backcourt defense goes.

Rodions Kurucs looked rejuvenated against the Kings on Monday, scoring 16 points shooting 70% from the field and hit both of his free throw attempts. The kid has played more high level basketball in the last few months than he has in his entire life before, so it’s probably to be expected that he’ll have some games where he just looks gassed and others where he bounces back. The rookie wall is real and it’s okay. Everyone goes through the growing pains of learning how to deal with an entire NBA season. The fun thing about Rodi is that his motor is so high that even if he isn’t taking or making shots he can still be an important cog in the offense or be disruptive on defense.

The Magic as a team shoot 44.8% from the field and also attempt the least amount of free throws per game in the league with 18.8 which puts them almost an entire attempt behind the 29th ranked Chicago Bulls who are literally trying to lose games. The most recent Nets-Magic game was close due to Orlando’s strong team performance, despite their only taking 14 free throws and only making 10 threes (both below their season averages) they received enough contributions from guys across the rotation to force the Nets to make some big shots to pull out the W.

One problem the Magic have had with their rebuild is player development; they just don’t seem to be very good at it yet. A team like the Nets, who can seemingly take a guy playing at the 92nd Street Y and put him into the rotation where he’ll be +4 and hit a big corner three, would have killed to have the draft picks the Magic have had over the last few years. Guys like Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba are really talented but they just seem to take longer to figure everything out in Orlando.

Things got so bad after the Nets came back and beat Orlando that on Saturday night, Nikola Vucevic, the Magic center, gave an impassioned speech to his teammates. It was basically, this is it. We need to win, need to make the playoffs.

“We’re not stupid; we know that if we don’t make the playoffs this year, this is probably it for us,” Evan Fornier said afterwards. “Just like (Vucevic) and myself, we like it (in Orlando) and we like to play with each other.”

Jarrett Allen is on a low-key tear right now, putting up 13.5 points and 14.5 rebounds per game over his last four games. He’s shooting 4 free throws and blocking 3.3 shots a game during that span, and him and Ed Davis are joining forces to become an absolute wrecking crew on the boards. I don’t know who Jarrett Allen mains in Overwatch, but he’s playing like a real Reinhardt lately. Ed Davis, who pulled down 16 boards against Sacramento, is now averaging 16.9 boards per 36 minutes. Monster.

And if you need a fill of DLo stats, we got them too. Over last two games, he’s averaging 35.2 points a game, shooting 28-of-50 overall or 56 percent; 15-of-26 from three or 57.3 percent. He’s handed out 7.5 assists and has only one turnover in the two games.

As for the month, he’s shooting at Holy Grail levels: 50/40/90 or specifically 50/45/93 in 1- games while averaging 24.0 points, 7.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds. Keep this up and forget the second Player of the Week. Think bigger: Player of the Month.

Player To Watch

Nikola Vucevic is probably going to be an All-Star, I guess? Not that he doesn’t deserve it, he’s been great this season, it’s just that at no point during the last five or so years did I ever think to myself “Oh yeah, Nikola Vucevic is for sure going to be an All-Star” and I feel like maybe no one else did either? Except Nikola, probably.

Anyway, he’s averaging 20.3 points per game with 11.9 rebounds and he’s even making 1.2 threes per game on 38% shooting! Impressive for the big man. His 3.8 assists, 1 steal and 1.1 blocks are also impressive peripherals for a guy that’s really rounded out his game nicely over the past few years. He was relatively quiet on offense against the Nets last week, scoring 16 and shooting just 35% on 20 attempts, but he did manage to pull down 17 boards. Some better shooting and that could be a lopsided box score real quick, he could be trouble.

He is also a certified Nets killer.

From The Vault

Carmelo Anthony was finally traded out of Houston to make way for Kenneth Faried, so here are some highlights of a longtime Nets opponent who may or may not play productive basketball for an NBA team ever again. People always talk about “Hoodie Melo” but I think Nuggets Headband Melo might have been the most fun.

Enjoy.

For a different perspective, head on over to Orlando Pinstriped Post, our Magic sister site on SB Nation.