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Brooklyn Nets embark on long trip after crushing loss

Brooklyn blew a 19-point lead over Orlando Monday

February 25, 2020 By John Torenli, Sports Editor
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The Nets looked like they would embark on their upcoming four-game road trip on a high note as they built a 19-point, third-quarter lead against the Orlando Magic at Downtown’s Barclays Center on Monday night.

But then it all came crumbling down around them.

The Magic, fighting the Nets for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, battled back to score 74 second-half points en route to a 115-113 victory over Brooklyn in front of 16,162 fans on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

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“We gave up 74 points [after halftime]. I think that’s the story there,” Nets Head Coach Kenny Atkinson lamented as Orlando closed within one-and-a-half games of Brooklyn for seventh place in the East.

“Defense was fantastic in the first half, second half we let down defensively,” he added. “I think it obviously got loose there, that kind of got them going.”

Aaron Gordon keyed Orlando’s comeback, scoring 27 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and blocking a potential game-tying shot by Caris LeVert in the final seconds as the Magic (25-32) won for the third time in their last four games.

Brooklyn, which will be without Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the season as he prepares to undergo surgery on his right shoulder, must now hit the road for the next four games after blowing a chance to close out what would have been its fourth victory in five contests.

The Nets (26-30) will visit the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, the Miami Heat on Saturday and the Boston Celtics next Tuesday before returning to Brooklyn March 4 to host the Memphis Grizzlies.

While they remain six games in front of the Wizards, who are the first team on the outside looking in at the playoff picture, the Nets know they squandered an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the eighth-place Magic before leaving Barclays for the next week.

“We understand the importance of the game so we’re obviously unhappy with it,” said Spencer Dinwiddie after scoring a team-high 24 points and handing out eight assists.

“If we do our job defensively then we’re not in that situation.”

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 24 points, but the Nets squandered a 19-point, second-half lead en route to a tough home loss to Orlando on Monday night in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Kathy Willens/AP

LeVert finished with 19 points, Garrett Temple had 18 off the bench and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 11 rebounds for Brooklyn, which saw a 67-48 lead turn into an 88-87 deficit just under two minutes into the fourth quarter.

“It’s the NBA. Lead’s never safe,” Atkinson noted. “You’re up 20, you don’t feel comfortable. … They got back in it and then they got their rhythm and then we could not get stops.

“We tried some different things, we tried some zone. But again, you’ve got to give them credit. They just simply overran us in that second half.”

Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier scored 21 points apiece for the Magic, who lead the season series against Brooklyn, 2-0, and still have two meetings remaining with the Nets on March 23 at Barclays and March 27 in Orlando.

“We’re in the hunt, so this was a good win to get for us,” Gordon said. “I feel like we’ve let go of a lot of games and now it’s time to get a hold of them.”

The Nets will have to do the same, beginning Wednesday night in our nation’s capital, if they hope to return to the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

“We have a lot more games ahead of us that are super important,” Allen emphasized. “And we know what our goal is. So just keep playing.”

Nothing But Net: Though the Nets announced last week that Irving would be done for the season after playing only 20 games for Brooklyn this season, the team has yet to reveal exactly when he will have surgery on his right shoulder. “I think you’re tying to gather as much information and I know he’s talking to the medical team, the performance team to find the best time, the best place, all that, best doctor,” Atkinson said. “And it’s not even the best, it’s like, what fits. And when we have more information we’ll get it to you.” … Joe Harris had 12 points and Taurean Prince added 10 Monday night as all five Nets starters scored in double figures. … In their last visit to D.C., on Feb. 1, the Nets blew a nine-point lead in the final 7:34 of regulation en route to a 113-107 loss. They also saw Irving go down with a knee sprain in that contest and the superstar guard has not played since.

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