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Nets wrap up brief homestand vs. Magic

Orlando Magic v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

Plenty of room for improvement. After getting roughed up by the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, the Brooklyn Nets came into Wednesday’s game looking to get back on the winning side after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers. It probably should’ve been a bigger margin of victory, but you take what you can get and move on from it.

The opponent to close out this brief three game homestand will be the Orlando Magic. The Magic are an incredibly young team and are on the rebuilding path. They’ve been in town the past few days and are feeling good after beating the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN on radio. Tip after 7:30.

Injuries

Kevin Durant will miss his first game of the season, resting his right shoulder. Joe Harris (ankle sprain) is out. Paul Millsap (personal) is out. Nicolas Claxton (illness) is still out, and has to work himself back into game condition. Kyrie Irving (vaccine mandate) is out.

Jalen Suggs has been dealing with a right ankle sprain, and now he’s dealing with a right quad contusion. He’s questionable. Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, Michael Carter-Williams, and E’Twaun Moore are out.

The game

Brooklyn won the first game last week.

Our friends from Orlando Pinstriped Post took a trip to the vault for some Magic x New Jersey Nets history. Read about it here.

We had a special appearance during Michael Grady’s “I Did Not Know That”

Betnijah Laney is usually at Barclays Center taking in Nets games, but she’s recovering from knee surgery that took place on Wednesday. Wish the Queen Bee the best.

For a team like the Magic, the development of their youngsters is essential for what they plan to do going forward. Leading the charge is second year player Cole Anthony. Over at Orlando Pinstriped Post, Garrett Townsend wrote about the second year player and said:

Anthony is also getting up significantly more long range attempts off the bounce, testament to his developing feel for the rhythms of the professional game. Last year he took only 1.5 three point shots per-game after one or more dribbles, a rate he has more than doubled in his second season with 3.2 long-range launches each night coming off the back of a bouncing ball. It’s important to note that Anthony has always been more accurate when his shooting motion involves a dribble gather, as opposed to the feet-set mechanics of catch-and-shoot attempts; it’s a trend that has continued this season, with Cole shooting no less than 40.0% on attempts that are preceded by anywhere from one to seven-plus dribbles. He’s noticeably comfortable hunting for his own shot with the ball in hand, particularly on hard-left drives and feints that create a little separation between him and his defender.

Anthony helped bring the win home against the Knicks, and his ability to score and make things happen will help give the Magic a chance to pull off the New York two step.

The Nets have been telling us they don't see themselves as an elite team yet, and they appear to be right. They still have tons of work to do, which starts with holding on to large leads when they get them. You never give wins back of course, but how you win says a heck of a lot about where you're heading as a team. If Brooklyn manages to jump out to another big lead, they have to keep it and bring it all the way home in dominant fashion.

If you had James Johnson playing the entire fourth quarter on Wednesday, come on down claim your prize! With Millsap away from the team for personal reasons, Johnson has moved into the rotation. He provides Steve Nash and the coaching staff with another ball handler that can bring the rock up the court, however, his lack of shooting cramps the Nets spacing and presents a big issue for their offense. He’s been on the court with Bruce Brown and DeAndre Bembry this week, and while it boosts the defense, does have the countereffect of limiting the team’s offensive capabilities. How the Nets figure this part of the rotation with Harris out will be crucial.

Orlando has been one of the most turnover prone teams in the Association this season, and that spells danger against a team like Brooklyn. They won the turnover battle against the Knicks, which kept them in it long enough to steal the win.

James Harden is looking better and better by the day. The former MVP had a game high 27 points along with 10 rebounds and seven assists on a .500/.500/1.000 shooting split. The turnovers are still high, but you can live with it. Nets fans should be incredibly encouraged as Harden has gotten 10+ free throws in three of the past four games. He’s getting downhill and driving to the basket more and more. In those last four games, league stats have tracked him driving to the basket 17.5 times a game, ninth most in the league over those four games (and 26 drives on Wednesday against the Cavs). On the season, he’s averaging 14 drives a game. When he’s engaged, active, and making life hell on defenses, Brooklyn starts to look like the superpower we thought they’d be. Hours ain’t scary yet, but it’s getting there.

Player to watch: Franz Wagner

As the other lottery pick from the 2021 Draft, Wagner is under the radar compared to Jalen Suggs. However, he’s gotten off to a pretty nice start to his NBA career. He’s averaging around 14 points and four rebounds on a .451/.375/.786 shooting split in 32 minutes a night. In the first meeting against the Nets, he didn’t shoot well, but did snag a season high six steals.

23 points on efficient shooting with only one turnover would be a pretty nifty for most basketball players. However, Kevin Durant is not most players so that kind of game is eh compared to his amazing usual. It looked like KD rolled his ankle on Wednesday, so we’ll see if he’s a bit conservative tonight. Durant worked the hell out of the Magic last time, so look for Orlando to throw everything in the book at him in an attempt to slow him down. Brooklyn has two days off before playing the Cavs in Cleveland on Monday, so another huge outing will have the Nets feeling good as they hit the road.

Protest planned

Following a Wisconsin jury’s not guilty verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse murder trial, there are reports of a demonstration on the Barclays Center entrance plaza at 7 p.m. ET ... and increased police presence at the arena.

The plaza has been the scene of several protests beginning with those at the time of George Floyd’s murder in May 2020. Last month, anti-vaxxers demonstrated in support of Kyrie Irving’s decision not to get vaccinated and tried to breach the arena.

From the Vault

On Wednesday, Memphis rapper Young Dolph was killed in his hometown. Sending love and light to his family, friends, fans, and everyone in Memphis.

And once this game wraps up, the WWE will take control of Barclays Center as the Survivor Series will be this Sunday! Since we’re in the spirit for one of the Big 4, let’s revisit my pick for the best match in SS history.

More reading: Orlando Pinstriped Post