Brooklyn finally played a game that matters, a Friday restart against an Orlando team they had to beat. It couldn’t possibly have gone any worse.
Right out of the gate the Nets faced the team a half-game behind them in the standings. And Brooklyn didn’t just lose – they got dominated and outright outclassed, blitzed 128-118 by the Magic at Disney.
In their first restart game, the Nets fell into the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. And they look so shorthanded and sieve-like, it begs the question of whether they can even keep enough of a cushion to avoid a play-in against ninth-place Washington – or beat the Wizards if they can’t.
There were stark reminders of how much has changed since they last played, beating the Lakers on March 10 in Los Angeles for their fourth win in five games. The world is changed.
From every player (except Orlando’s Jonathan Issac) kneeling during the anthem in support of social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement, to an entirely different Nets team missing eight players, including Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie and Taurean Prince, it was hard to forget just how much its changed.
After going 143 straight days between games, they nearly gave up that many points in this one.
Brooklyn never played any defense throughout. And once their white-hot offensive start cooled off, the game got ugly.
They hit seven of their first nine to take a quick 16-8 cushion, and led 39-36 after a first quarter that saw them shoot a scalding .696 percent.
But Brooklyn hit just .333 in the second quarter, going into the break trailing 70-59. It got worse coming back out of the locker room, shooting just .364 in a 41-23 third that saw them trail by 30.
There were no changes to be made by interim Jacque Vaughn that could help.
The Nets fell behind 107-77 with 2:32 left in the third on a Michael Carter-Williams foul shot. But it was their defense that was truly foul on Friday.
Brooklyn actually closed the game with the final 18 unanswered points — led by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot — to helped cosmetically. But the game had long since been over.
Luwawu-Cabarrot had a team-high 24 points off the bench, while Caris LeVert added 17 points and seven assists.
But center Jarrett Allen finished with 14 points and five rebounds. But after putting up ten points and four boards in a 5-for-5 first quarter, he mustered just four points and one rebounds an invisible rest of the way.
Orlando guard Evan Fournier shared game-high honors with two dozen points, while Nikola Vucevic added 22, seven rebounds and five assists. A vexed Steve Clifford actually put his starters back in late to put the final nail in Brooklyn’s comeback bid.