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Nets and Magic at it again, this time in Orlando

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The Nets got so so so so close to winning their first game in San Antonio since 2002 on Thursday but fell just short of making it happen. It was looking good for a while there towards the end but the Spurs are the Spurs and a no-call on a last second Shabazz Napier three sealed it. I blame the bats, of which there were plenty during the first quarter causing a delay which was kind of fun. No bats were caught and I have no idea where they went, By the way. I blame them for the loss.

The Nets will face a less intimidating opponent on Saturday in the Orlando Magic ... for the third time in two weeks, both very dramatic Nets wins. Orlando remains out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture sitting in the 11th seed. They’re 3-7 in their last 10 —including those two losses to Brooklyn— and seem to be slipping away from any hope of grabbing the eighth seed. If Orlando is going to turn it around, it needs to happen soon.

And, of course, this will be the first game where D’Angelo Russell will play as an All-Star. YES!

Let’s get into it.

Where To Follow The Game

YES and WFAN at 7pm, ET.

Injuries

Caris LeVert (foot) Allen Crabbe (knee) Spencer Dinwiddie (thumb) and Jared Dudley (healthy but rehabbing in Long Island) are out.

Jonathan Simmons (abdominal strain) missed Thursdays game and is day-to-day and Timofey Mozgov (knee) is out.

The Game

I like Treveon Graham, I really do. I think he’s a useful player with a couple of great tools and I’m happy Kenny Atkinson gets to use him in lineups and matchups because he’s a versatile and talented player. The Nets also need a starting power forward. Graham put up 3 points and 3 rebounds on 25 percent shooting against the Spurs and while I am obviously not gauging his value on one performance, it seems clear that he is probably best suited for a bench role if and when the Nets acquire a stretch-4. Maybe something similar to how Davis Bertans is used in San Antonio. He can hit threes and take certain defensive matchups others can’t due to his size, but doesn’t start and doesn’t play a ton of minutes in each game. It makes him more valuable.

Anyway, it’s likely Graham is the starting power forward for the foreseeable future, or at least against the Magic, who boast a pretty good starting 4 themselves. The Nets were able to contain Aaron Gordon to just 10 points and 6 rebounds in last weeks matchup and the big man ended up having to leave the game after sustaining a minor injury, which cleared the way for a Brooklyn comeback. The Nets will probably see more of him in this matchup, and this month he’s putting up 17.1 points and 7.5 rebounds a game.

Lamarcus Aldridge put up 20 and 13 against Brooklyn in a game where it felt like San Antonio’s bigs were getting whatever they wanted, so maybe some extra minutes for Ed Davis are in order against Gordon, Mo Bamba, and Nikola Vucevic.

Since the start of January, the Nets rank eighth in the league in Net Rating, sixth in the league in Rebound Percentage, and 13th in True Shooting Percentage. All without LeVert, Allen, RHJ at times, and now Dinwiddie. Oh, and Jared Dudley. Kenny Atkinson needs to get some Coach of the Year buzz.

The Magic, in that same time span, are 20th in the league in Net Rating, 15th in Rebound Percentage, and 20th in Offensive Rating. They’ve had a rough month, and still very much need a point guard. DJ Augustin is like their version of Treveon Graham. Really solid, definitely talented and useful, for sure worth keeping around. Not a playoff-caliber starter. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 4.7 assists per game on 46/43/87 shooting. Solid!! With Dinwiddie out the Nets won’t have a huge backcourt advantage, but DLo lit up Orlando last time he was down there so let’s hope for some more of that.

Joe Harris, in his 11 games since returning from his brief injury, is averaging 13.3 points per game and shooting 44/40/86 and just generally being the Joe Harris we all know and love. He isn’t shooting his scorching 45+ percent from three this month which is actually encouraging. It proves that even when he isn’t hitting every single three he can still be a productive and effective player and that is awesome. That is the final form of player development, good even on your bad nights. Guys like Jarrett Allen, Dinwiddie, Ed Davis, DLo now that he’s gone Super Saiyan, DeMarre Carroll and even Rodions Kurucs all possess this skill to some degree and it’s the biggest reason the Nets are competitive every single night.

Player To Watch

Lost among the Kristaps Porzingis frenzy were some Brian Windhorst fueled rumors that Mo Bamba is on the trade block which to me seems ridiculous. Don’t trade a talented lottery pick on the FIRST YEAR of his rookie contract!! If Sean Marks would pick your player up in a second, it’s probably worth hanging onto them. Just a rule of thumb. Bamba is averaging 6.2 points and 5 rebounds while playing 16.3 minutes per game. He’s shooting 48 percent from the field, can hit an occasional three, and is crazy athletic. He’s absolutely an asset, and I can’t imagine he would be worth trading at this point in his career.

From The Vault

Speaking of Porzingis, for those of you who have somehow not heard, he is now a Dallas Maverick. Wild. This means Rodi is the undisputed best Latvian in New York, and the Nets are leagues ahead of the Knicks at this point. Amazing. I like The Zinger, always have. Hope him and Doncic tear it up in Dallas like Nash and Nowitzki once did.

Enjoy.

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