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Magic rout Nets in first official game back, 128-118

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been four months and three weeks since the Brooklyn Nets played an official game of basketball and it certainly looked that way. In their return against the Orlando Magic, they were blown out of the building, 128-118, Friday afternoon. Only an 18-0 run at game’s end saved the team from more embarrassment.

The fun parts of the game for Nets fans consisted of the 12 minutes at the open of the game when they shot 70 percent from the field while scoring 39 points in the first quarter, then seven minutes at the end when the reserves cut the lead from 28 to 10.

The opening quarter even saw the Nets record their most assists in an opening quarter this season with 12.

Then, it got ugly.

Very ugly.

Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen dominated in the first quarter, so Steve Clifford adjusted the pick-and-roll defense, forcing the ball out of LeVert’s hands before he was able to make much of a move. Prior to the game, Clifford told reporters that they need to avoid one-on-one situations with LeVert due to his versatility.

Brooklyn’s 39-point first quarter was soon forgotten. Orlando answered with a 34-20 second quarter, 9-2 run to close out the half. The rout continued — an extended 47-21 run for Orlando which had them up by 28 late in the third quarter.

The Nets trailed by 29 entering the fourth. Orlando had scored 111 points at that point.

In reality, it was Game Over. The big run at the end was nice, but you’d have to be a real optimist to think they’d come all the way back.

LeVert was shut down after the first quarter, finishing the game with 17 points and seven assists, shooting 7-of-17 from the field, 0-for-4 from three while committing four turnovers. The same could be said for Allen, who scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with just 14 total.

“Production wise – just their ability to try to get the ball out of Caris’ hands and blitz him was a big part of their game plan. (It) gave us more than 40 opportunities to shoot threes, so when teams do that, you have to make them pay.

“So, we’ll make some adjustments that way. But, at the same time, Caris was extremely unselfish, and part of the game is getting advantage and keeping advantage. You can draw two people. We like that opportunity also, so we can use him to score for us, to get opportunities for others, and (I) totally believe that guys will take advantage of those opportunities and knock some shots down.”

The team shot a horrid 31 percent from three on 42 attempts — 48 percent overall. The high volume 3-point shooting impacted their dribble, drive and attack game, thus leading to 23 free throw attempts on the night.

On bright side? Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who matched a career-high with 24 points in 21 minutes. Behind his lead, the Nets went on that 18-0 run and cut it within 10 with less than 1:30 remaining remaining. Nothing came from it, but the backup unit brought more fire than we saw all throughout the night. They held Orlando scoreless for the final 6:52 of the game.

Playing without Jamal Crawford, it was clear that Brooklyn need a second playmaker. Still, Joe Harris played his game and finished with 14 points (2-of-6 from three), his 55th straight game with a 3-pointer. But LeVert and Chris Chiozza went 0-of-9 from deep.

Orlando has been a tough match for Brooklyn all season, particularly Nikola Vucevic who seemingly always gives the Nets problems inside the paint. He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Evan Fournier torched Brooklyn’s guards with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting.

The Magic shot 53 percent from the field, dished out 31 assists and turned the ball over only 12 times.

Post-game, Jacque Vaughn talked the good and the bad he saw.

“I think we showed a little bit of our lack of size in that first half, whether it was them attacking the paint, offensive rebounding vs. us. I talked to the team about – we have to embrace that suck a little bit, the fact that we’re going to have to be extremely gritty and determined to put a body on somebody every single possession.

The expectations aren’t very high on the Nets, who are playing the resumption without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Nicolas Claxton and Wilson Chandler. Even one of the substitutes, Michael Beasley, tested positive for the coronavirus after he was signed.

Bottom line, this was a huge game for the standings The Nets have now dropped below the Magic for the eighth seed in the East. They’ll face the Washington Wizards on Sunday at 2pm ET. The Wizards are currently two games back from forcing a play-in game, should it get to that point at the end of eight seeding games. The Wizards lost to the Suns Friday.

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NEW GAME, SAME MESSAGE

All 15 players on the Nets wore a message on the back of their jerseys and will continue to do so throughout the rest of the season. Peep Jeremiah Martin’s jersey... very creative.

All the Nets knelt and wore “Black Lives Matter” gear as did all but one of the Magic players. Jonathan Isaac of the Magic was the only holdout. He explained his decision on religious grounds...

Jacque Vaughn described the process that led to the Nets decision.

“It was totally based on us an organization, as a team, that we were going to kneel, lock arms and be united that way. That’s the mission that we set out to do, and I felt good being a part of that, being a part of the entire group and being in a very empathetic moment in our history.”

THE ROOKIES

The Nets officially have two rookies: Jeremiah Martin signed to a two-way deal back in January and Donta Hall signed as a substitute in late June. Both were part of the unit that went 18-0 at the end.

Hall, who didn’t play in any of the three scrimmages and had limited practice time, was the more impressive of the two. The 6’10” Alabama product who dominated the G League with Grand Rapids finished with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting with three rebounds and a block in 12 and a half minutes.

Martin had seven points on 3-of-8 shooting, including 1-of-5 from deep in nine minutes. He had played 17 minutes for the Nets earlier in the season as a two-way. He also finished with two assists and two rebounds.

VIRTUAL FANS

Nets fans may not be able to physically be AT the game, but Nets fans all over attended a virtual meet where they were showed throughout the arena. Among those on hand: John Abbamondi, the Nets new CEO and Kerry Kittles. Of course, we had to make a stop to say hello...

In the one in the suit. Natch.

BET ON BROOKLYN?

The Nets entered Friday afternoon as 7-point underdogs with an over/under to win 2.5 games during the eight-game resumption. According to BetOnline.AG, Brooklyn’s odds to win the NBA Finals are extremely slim at 300-1 or 1.07 percent.

WHERE WE LEFT OFF

Hey, the Nets entered the resumption with a three-game win streak. Their last game was on March 10, when they defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the final seconds of the game. Technically, Brooklyn entered Friday on a mini-win streak, with head coach Jacque Vaughn winning both of the two games he coached.

Remember this?

And in case you wondered, NetsDaily filed 457 stories in the 142 games during the hiatus.

STATE OF THE NETS: MAGIC BLOWOUT

SARAH HONORED ... AGAIN

Sarah Kustok, YES’ groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning Nets game analyst, has been named to Cynopsis Media’s “Top Women in Sports” list, which recognizes the top women in media.

In the words of Cynopsis, Kustok is among those “…trailblazers who are pushing the industry forward, while empowering and inspiring others. These honorees are innovators, risk-takers and those instrumental in executing strategy, in categories that cover entertainment, tech and sports media.”

Kustok was named in the “Game Changing On Air Talent” category. She and all other Cynopsis honorees will be recognized during a virtual event in October.

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 vs. Wizards on Sunday, 2pm ET.