Nets to host In-Season Tournament game
Shoot for second straight win vs. Orlando at Barclays Center
The Nets split their first two In-Season Tournament road games.
Now, they’ll get a chance to chase the NBA Cup right here in Downtown Brooklyn.
Fresh off a gritty and admittedly ugly win over Washington at Barclays Center Sunday, the Nets will welcome the Orlando Magic to the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush Tuesday night.
Brooklyn began its foray into the league’s newly created tournament on Nov. 3 in Chicago, holding on for a 109-107 victory over the Bulls when Zach Lavine’s bid for a game-winning, long-range jumper bounded off the rim.
However, the Nets (5-5) failed to remain atop the East Group C standings with last Friday night’s 121-107 loss in Boston, leaving them with two more opportunities to claim the top spot and an automatic berth into the knockout stage or remain eligible for a wild-card entry.
Only eight teams will advance to the single-elimination stage, six group-stage winners and a wild card from each conference.
Brooklyn will host Toronto here on Nov. 28, but it will likely be fighting for its tournament life against the Raptors if it fails to get past Orlando in the finale of this two-game homestand.
The Magic (5-4) will roll into Barclays for their in-season tournament opener off Saturday’s 112-97 victory over Milwaukee.
Paolo Banchero had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Franz Wagner added 24 points for Orlando, which snapped a two-game skid.
The Magic only won five of their first 25 games last season before finishing up with a 29-28 surge. They have carried that momentum into this year and will be seeking their second straight road win Tuesday.
“It’s so important for our fans that they witness what our guys are doing right now,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said after Saturday’s win. “They played with a level of toughness, they sat down and guarded. They took on all challenges.”
So did the Nets after squandering a 17-point lead against the Wizards.
Mikal Bridges scored 27 points despite a brutal 2-of-14 shooting effort from 3-point range and Nic Claxton made the most of his return to the lineup from an ankle injury, piling up 10 points and 13 rebounds as Brooklyn used a late 15-0 run to send the sellout crowd of 17,732 home happy.
“We would rather have an ugly win than an ugly loss any day,” said Claxton, who hadn’t played since the Nets’ Opening Night loss to Cleveland in Brooklyn on Oct. 25.
The 6-foot-11 center galvanized the Nets along the interior as he and Bridges combined for 26 rebounds while Day’Ron Sharpe added 12 caroms, pacing the Nets to a whopping 66-42 advantage on the boards.
Brooklyn also grabbed a season-best 20 offensive rebounds.
Claxton, who also amassed four blocked shots and two assists during his 28 minutes on the hardwood, lived up to what Nets coach Jacque Vaughn expected upon his much-anticipated return.
“You know, we talked about before the game just the impact that Nic has on our defensive end of the floor,” said Vaughn.
“The plays that he made at the end of the game, whether it’s the block to save a basket, whether it’s a deterrent at the rim on two other plays, the ability to switch at the end of the game and keep a body in front of the body, so we missed that. And good to see him back out there.”
Cam Johnson played his second straight game since returning from a calf injury, putting up 14 points.
But he and Bridges combined to go a dismal 4-of-25 from beyond the arc, putting even more emphasis on Brooklyn’s ability to get second chances off the offensive glass.
The Nets have also had to deal with a slew of injuries during this early portion of the schedule.
Cam Thomas (ankle) and Ben Simmons (hip) remained out of the lineup vs. Washington, and only Simmons may be eligible to rejoin the team Tuesday night as he is listed as day-to-day.
Thomas should be out for at least another two weeks.
Splitting their first 10 games despite all these absences has heartened the rest of the Nets, as well as their coach.
“So for our group to stay together through this, still try to find an identity on both ends of the floor, I give them a lot of credit for staying together,” Vaughn said.
NOTHING BUT NET: After hosting Orlando, the Nets will travel to Miami on Thursday before returning to Barclays for a Sunday afternoon matinee vs. Philadelphia. … Brooklyn committed 18 turnovers against Washington while forcing only 12. … Lonnie Walker IV, who has been the Nets’ most potent offensive weapon off the bench this year, was limited to five points on 2-of-8 shooting Sunday and is admittedly nursing a sore knee. … The Nets will reveal their NBA Cup hardwood design Tuesday.
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