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David Duke Jr.’s double-double not enough as Nets run out of Magic late, losing to Orlando, 100-93

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Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

It was a valiant effort but not enough juice to close out another comeback.

In a game that had a total of 24 players between the two teams out due to health and safety protocols or injuries, the Magic beat the Nets, 100-93. With the loss, Brooklyn falls to 21-9 on the season and has their four-game win streak snapped.

“I thought it was an outstanding effort to get back in the game and tie it late. I told the guys I’m really proud of the effort,” said Nash on the loss. “Probably made too many mistakes defensively but that effort to come back, find a way to level it, and then we got a little unlucky. We had a bunch of guys out there for the first time and a bunch of guys that are playing extended minutes for multiple games for the first time. Overall, really proud of them and it was a great effort.”

After trailing throughout the contest, Brooklyn finally knotted the game up at 93 off a Patty Mills floater and a right-wing three from David Duke Jr.. The Magic answered with a three of their own (left-wing three from Chuma Okeke) and a circus shot from Franz Wagner to go back up by five points with 39.7 seconds remaining. Despite the Nets' relentless comeback effort, Orlando capitalized on free throws late to escape Brooklyn with the win and snap their seven-game losing streak.

“Good effort but came out to win and came up short. I made some stupid plays down the stretch, but I was proud of how these young guys fought,” Griffin said.

Duke Jr. made the most of his opportunity and certainly made a name for himself in the process. The Nets rookie finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, one assist and a block in 36 minutes of play. His eight offensive rebounds are the highest by a rookie this season. It was his second double-double in three games.

“He was great,” said Nash on Duke’s performance. “I talked to him at halftime and I thought he looked to score a little bit too much. I told him that we love him because he does so many things well: he defends, steals, deflections, offensive rebounds, hustle plays. I said you can get your 20 points but you’re going to get it out of the gate, not out of going and finding it. He was great. He understood that and his approach in the second half was outstanding. He was a bright spot.”

Mills was the high man for Brooklyn in the loss, finishing with 23 points, six rebounds and five assists in a team-high 41 minutes. Blake Griffin recorded a season-high 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists in 32 minutes of play. Cam Thomas was the only other Net to finish in double-figures, tallying 15 points (on 7-of-20 shooting), seven rebounds and four assists.

“Our young boys again to be able to, at the moment and every night deliver that same amount of effort. It’s a credit to how much hard work that they’ve put in since they’ve been here, staying the course of going down to Long Island putting in work, coming back and staying ready,” said Mills on the rookies’ play over the past three games. “You see the caliber of players they are, the depth we have as well and these are all opportunities for all of them to come in and make an impact on an NBA game.”

“Blake’s played great. Like I said to him, there’s always something around the corner in this league and although he was out of the rotation for a little while, we knew something would happen and he’d get his opportunity again,” said Nash on Griffin’s play since returning to the rotation. “He’s a pro and worked his butt off, stayed in shape, found a rhythm and he’s playing good basketball. His effort was outstanding.”

The depleted Nets started Mills, Thomas, Duke Jr., Griffin and Kessler Edwards. Orlando held a 15-10 advantage early, powered by a 9-0 run. And then it got ugly fast for Brooklyn no doubt due to the unfamiliarity among the players. While the turnovers added up for the Nets, the Magic grew their lead to seven points with 1:35 left in the first. Brooklyn concluded the first trailing 26-17 (the lowest-scoring first quarter of the season), led by Mills with seven points. Galloway and Thomas recorded four points each in the frame.

Orlando continued to stay hot from behind the arc and pile on their advantage. The Magic grew the lead to 40-25 with 6:43 left in the second while Brooklyn’s offense struggled to find a rhythm and openings for shots.

Griffin was a lone bright spot in the Nets offense, scoring 11 points in the second, and in fact, all 11 points were scored in a straight sequence. The Nets ended the half on a 15-8 run to trim the deficit to only six points, despite trailing by 15 and shooting only 12.5 percent from three (3-of-24). Mills recorded 12 points in 19 minutes followed by Thomas with eight points.

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

Although Brooklyn picked up their defensive intensity in the third, the offense hit a slump. Meanwhile, Orlando, who strategically took away a series of fastbreak opportunities from the Nets by fouling, grew their lead back up to 14 (60-46) with 6:38 left off a 10-2 run.

Despite trailing by a game-high 17 points midway through the frame, a late quarter boost put Brooklyn back within striking distance. The Nets gathered some momentum in the final two minutes, hitting three straight 3-pointers (James Ennis, Thomas and Mills) as part of a 10-3 run to make it an eight-point game (74-66) heading into the fourth quarter.

The Nets picked up right where they left off, forging an extended 7-0 run to cut the Magic’s lead to four points with eight minutes remaining. Duke Jr. provided Brooklyn with several second-chance opportunities through his efforts on the offensive glass — _ offensive rebounds — and Edwards followed with the rebounding of his own, along with timely cuts to the basket.

In the end, the Nets fell short of another comeback effort with their eight guys, losing by seven points.

Reinforcement(s) on the way

Shams Charania tweeted earlier in the day that 6’9” forward Wenyen Gabriel of the G League Wisconsin Herd would soon be signing with the Nets. Gabriel in fact seemed to confirm his good luck in a tweet. But by game time, the Nets hadn’t signed the 24-year-old. So he couldn’t play. It seems likely he’ll be around for Sunday’s game vs. the Nuggets.

Once Gabriel signs, the Nets will have used the hardship exception four times, adding him, Langston Galloway, Shaq Harrison and James Ennis III. They have at least one more exception available. Currently, teams have to play luxury taxes on such signings, but Bobby Marks reports the NBA may change that rule.

Milestone Watch

Not much with Kevin Durant and James Harden in health and safety protocols, but there was this: David Duke had 18 points (16 in the fourth); 14 rebounds (nine in the fourth) including eight offensive boards. Duke Jr. is the fifth rookie in franchise history to reach those totals in a game and the first since Brook Lopez on April 13, 2009 vs. Charlotte.

What’s next

The Nets will return to action on Sunday when the team hosts the Nuggets for the second game of a back-to-back at Barclays Center. The game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m. ET.

After Saturday’s loss, the Nets head coach hinted that Griffin and Mills will likely rest against the Nuggets on Sunday. Nash added that the young guys are also a little banged up due to their high minute loads.

“We’ll have to see,” said Nash on resting players for Sunday’s second game of a back-to-back. “Normally, BG [Blake Griffin] doesn’t play back-to-backs as far as we know his knee history and tonight, he also got hit on the knee. That one is to be determined but it’ll be difficult. Patty has played a ton of minutes here lately and we’ll have to access the other guys.”

For a different perspective on Saturday night’s game, check out Orlando Pinstriped Post — our sister site covering the Magic.