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Nets choke up a 19-point lead in loss to Magic, 115-113

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — You can say the Nets allow big leads to disappear... like Magic. They blew a 19-point lead and lost to Orlando, 115-113, Monday night at Barclays Center.

“It’s the NBA, lead’s never safe,” Kenny Atkinson said after the game. “You’re up 20, you don't feel comfortable. That’s why I was so happy about the Charlotte game. Tonight, we didn't do it.”

All looked smooth on both ends of the ball, particularly Brooklyn’s defense in the first half when they gave up just 41 points total. Early in the third quarter, Joe Harris nailed a huge 3-pointer to put Brooklyn up by as many as 19. Harris flexed, Dinwiddie flexed and the Nets bench flexed as it looked like it might be a second straight victory.

Orlando had different intentions. In fact, they dropped 40 points in the third quarter, cutting the 19-point deficit down to six entering the fourth.

All the Nets needed were a couple of stops, but they couldn’t get them.

There were 11 lead changes in the fourth quarter as Orlando went off for 34 points. They hit 10-of-16 from three in the second half and absolutely dominated Brooklyn on their home floor, scoring 74 points in the final 24 minutes.

“We gave up 74 points, I think that’s the story right there,” said Atkinson. “They deserved to win. They kind of overran us in the second half.”

Brooklyn’s 19-point lead turned into a two-point deficit with 44 seconds left. They came up with a stop and went to Taurean Prince, who missed the go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.8 seconds left. Game over, right?

Wrong.

Brooklyn forced a turnover on the inbounds and they had a chance to win the game.

Everything besides their defense was fine in the second half... besides the last possession. The Nets were in scramble mode on the final shot yet again, seemingly playing hot potato with the ball until it landed into the hands of Prince, again, who missed a tough fadeaway 3-pointer as time expired.

The Nets entered Monday 2 12 games ahead of the Magic for the seventh seed. Now, they’re up 1 12 and everybody in the hunt is trying to avoid the eighth seed — a guaranteed battle with the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. It was also Orlando’s first win in Brooklyn since the 2015-2016 season.

“We understand the importance of the game so we’re obviously unhappy with it,” Dinwiddie said after the game.

“It’s big,” Aaron Gordon said after the game. “If it ever comes down to a tie-breaker, we have a two-game lead on them... I feel like we’ve let go of a lot of games and now it’s time to get ahold of them.”

And given how Brooklyn’s defense has played this year (seventh for defensive rating), it was quite shocking that they couldn’t come up with a stop. Orlando hit 13 of 22 shots in the fourth quarter and 5-of-6 from deep.

Entering Monday, the Nets have held opponents to shoot 32 percent from three in the prior 12 games — the best in the NBA. But when it mattered most, they didn’t get the job done.

Terrance Ross was crucial, scoring 13 points in the fourth quarter and 21 total on the night. Gordon hit the 3-pointer that put Orlando up four with less than a minute remaining, capping off a 27-point night — 12 coming in the fourth.

“Terrance is a tough shot-maker and we gotta just make it harder on him. Gordon’s step-back, that’s another tough shot,” said Dinwiddie.

Jarrett Allen was particularly fantastic in the fourth quarter, coming up with two huge blocks on Nikola Vucevic, while slamming home the dunk that put the Nets down by two with less than a minute remaining. He finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert were solid for the first three quarters, but Orlando schemed against them in the fourth and they fell apart. The two combined to shoot 2-of-11 from the field, both deferring on the final possession.

With a four-game road-trip upcoming, it’s crucial the Nets win these games. Blowing leads and failing to close out has been their biggest issue this season, and it hasn’t gotten much better. They’ll look for redemption against the Wizards on Wednesday.

“We could never really get stops against 74 points. That’s astronomical,” said Atkinson.

SURGERY UPDATE ON KYRIE IRVING

Kyrie was spotted yesterday in the crowd at the Staples Center memorial for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gigi.

When Kenny Atkinson was asked about a schedule for his season-ending shoulder surgery, he said Irving, the Nets performance and medical teams are still discussing when the best time would be and who will do the surgery.

YANG IN THE HOUSE

Andrew Yang, who recently suspended his presidential campaign, was in the house for the game. Yang, a native New Yorker, signed autographs and posed for selfies. He is an avowed Nets fan.

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ONE OTHER THING

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

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Next up: Nets at Washington, Wednesday 7:00 PM ET.