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Bridges’ rough night sinks Nets in Orlando

Brooklyn's leading scorer has four points in blowout loss

February 28, 2024 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Mikal Bridges’ worst game of the season wasn’t the only thing wrong with the Brooklyn Nets during the finale of their five-game road trip in Orlando Tuesday night.

But the team’s leading scorer managed just four points while misfiring on all but two of his 13 attempts from the floor, including an 0-for-7 effort from 3-point range, as the Nets dropped a 108-81 decision to the Magic in front of 17,708 at the Kia Center.

One night after a balanced offensive attack and stifling defense helped Brooklyn get interim coach Kevin Ollie his first career win in Memphis, neither side of the Nets’ attack functioned close to properly.

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The Nets (22-36) surrendered 33 first-quarter points and trailed by 27 at the half while Bridges remained scoreless.

They fell behind by as many as 33 following intermission despite Orlando missing Paolo Banchero due to an illness.

The Magic (33-26) hardly blinked with their leading scorer out of action.

Franz Wagner scored 21 points, 17 of which came during the first half, and older brother Moritz Wagner added 16 for Orlando, which has won six of its last eight contests.

The Magic also avenged a pair of blowout losses in Brooklyn earlier this season, a 124-104 defeat on Nov. 14 and a 129-101 shellacking on Dec. 2.

“I thought it was an important game for us, knowing how the last two games went against them,” said Franz Wagner. “I was pretty happy with how everybody came out focused for the whole game.”

Ollie wasn’t buying into Brooklyn potentially benefiting from Banchero’s absence, especially after his team gave up 29 points off turnovers and shot just under 40 percent from the field overall.

“They’re all missed opportunities when you lose one,” Ollie said. “These are NBA players. They’re pros. They’ve got a great team over there without Paolo and … we just expect guys to step up. Unfortunately we didn’t step up enough tonight to get a win.”

One night after recording his first win as the Nets’ interim coach, Kevin Ollie watched his team get blown out in Orlando. AP Photo by John Raoux

Bridges certainly didn’t.

The NBA’s Iron Man, playing in his 450th consecutive game, committed three of the Nets’ 20 turnovers in 29 lackluster minutes to go with his shooting woes.

“I feel like when I’m open I’m going to take threes,” Bridges said. “They all feel good. It’s just not going in. I’ll continue to take what the defense gives me and stay aggressive. The only way to get out of a slump is to keep shooting.”

He’ll get that chance Thursday night, when the Nets host 10th-place Atlanta in the first of two key showdowns in Brooklyn.

With Tuesday’s defeat, the Nets slipped four games behind the Hawks (26-32) for the final spot in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament.

Dennis Schroder had 15 points and Trendon Watford added 14 for Brooklyn, which went 1-4 on its extended trip, beginning with a 50-point loss in Boston prior to the All-Star break that spelled the end of Jacque Vaughn’s coaching tenure.

Thursday will mark Ollie’s Brooklyn debut at the helm.

Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.

Franz Wagner helped the Magic cruise past Brooklyn despite missing leading scorer Paolo Banchero Tuesday in Orlando. AP Photo by John Raoux

NOTHING BUT NET: Brooklyn was without Ben Simmons (back) and Cam Thomas (ankle) against the Magic. … After the opener against the Hawks, the Nets will host Atlanta at Barclays again on Saturday at 3 p.m. Brooklyn will complete the homestand with another set of back-to-backs against Memphis (Monday) and Philadelphia (Tuesday).

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