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Nets look to keep the streak going vs Magic

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Orlando Magic v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

As long as the job gets done. It was ugly at times, but the Brooklyn Nets got down to business late and came away with an impressive road win on Wednesday night against the Indiana Pacers. The W was their sixth in a row and most importantly, it helped them make it to a tie atop the Eastern Conference with the Philadelphia 76ers. We’re in for a fun ride the rest of the way.

The opponent tonight will be the Orlando Magic. The Magic are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and this season is a lost one. They lost Thursday night in New York against the Knicks, and their losing streak currently stands at nine games.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 8 PM.

Injuries

No Kevin Durant, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Blake Griffin. Kyrie Irving missed Wednesday’s game with a groin injury. He’s listed as probable.

Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, and Cole Anthony are out. Michael Carter Williams didn’t play yesterday due to an illness. No word on if he’ll be out there tonight. Terrence Ross missed yesterday’s game with a knee injury. No word on if he’ll be back tonight.

The game

The Nets won the first meeting in January and second in February.

My guy Matt Brooks made a great point about Nicolas Claxton:

The kid is earning every minute on the court and got the ultimate vote of confidence from Steve Nash by playing the entire fourth quarter on Wednesday night. When the Nets are back at 100 percent, he should still see plenty of minutes. His continued growth and development will pay dividends for Brooklyn now and in the near future when he permanently gets that starting spot. But for now, there’s no pressure on him so he can continue to play pressure free ball.

In the meantime, he and DeAndre Jordan will have to deal with a Brooklyn nemesis. Nikola Vucevic has been making life hell on the Nets franchise for years as his combination of post scoring and three point range makes him a tricky cover. DJ will get the assignment first, and he’ll look to provide an interior presence for Nash and the Nets.

Even if Irving returns tonight, he can take his time easing back into things thanks to James Harden. Harden added one more line to his MVP resume with his 40/15/10 performance against the Pacers. Great thing about Harden’s night is he only turned it over two times in his 42 minutes of play. When he’s making the most out of every possession, he becomes even more difficult to deal with. The Nets offense was already rock solid before he came, and now that he’s fully integrated into the attack, has morphed into a juggernaut.

Simply put, the Magic don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Nets attack. Brooklyn leads the league in offensive efficiency, averaging 118 points per 100 possessions and are second in the NBA in three point percentage. Orlando is the second worst offense in the league, averaging 104.8 points per 100 possessions and is 22nd in three point percentage. For Orlando, they’re going to have to keep the turnovers to an absolute minimum and hope that they can wreak havoc close to the rim. Interior defense has been the Nets’ sore spot this year and they’re going to need everybody on their games tonight if they hope to snap their losing streak.

For the Nets, with Orlando coming off an intense game last night, they should look to push the tempo early and look to get them down big. When you’ve got an opponent that’s riding a long losing streak and is on tired legs, one big run early could put them down for the count.

I thought this explanation of the Magic’s recent woes by Garrett Townsend of the Orlando Pinstriped Post was spot on:

So we’ve managed to establish that the Magic are losing the inside battle at the same time that they’re also getting blitzed from beyond the arc. Those two facts alone make clear the reason why they’ve tumbled so far down the defensive rankings when compared to the performance of recent seasons. To watch the games — particularly those tight moments when the intensity is at its greatest — the reasons for the miscues and failures are evident. The further down the rotation the injury-ravaged side have had to go, the less experienced and fluent the combinations become, with miscommunications, late rotations and blown coverages somewhat understandable but entirely debilitating.

Injuries are hell.

Player to watch: Aaron Gordon

Fans have been workshopping trade scenarios to get Gordon to Brooklyn for years, and as it turns out, the Nets kicked it around some before being rebuffed by the Magic. I’d say the Nets did fairly well for themselves with trades this season, right? Anyway, Gordon has been having his worst season as ankle injuries have limited him to only 21 games played this year. While he’s been out there, his minutes are at a career low along with his field goal percentage as he isn’t making as many of his shots close to the rim as we’re used to. On the bright side, he’s shooting a career high 36.8 percent from three point range so he has that going for him.

I had to look this up, but I have absolutely no recollection of Jeff Green playing for the Magic. He was there for one season in 2016-2017. Now that he’s here in Brooklyn, he’s done well in every role asked of him. He fills in capably as a starter, can play the smallball center role, is a veteran leader in the locker room, and has been helping guide Claxton’s growth. For a team like the Nets, players like Green are indispensable as they look to build championship habits. One thing Green has helped remind the Nets to do is not take opponents for granted and now that the Nets are fully involved in the race for homecourt advantage in the playoffs, Green will make sure they don’t overlook any team standing in their way.

From the Vault

We didn’t properly celebrate 3:16 Day around these parts. The Vault greatly regrets the error

More reading: Orlando Pinstriped Post