By John Denton
April 6, 2017
ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic aren’t the only non-playoff team looking to rack up as many wins as possible down the stretch and take some positive momentum into the summer.
They found that out the hard way last Saturday night in Brooklyn and they hope to exact some revenge against the suddenly surging Nets tonight at the Amway Center.
Brooklyn, owners of the NBA’s worst record most of the season, has won three games in a row and six of the last nine. The Nets whipped the Magic 121-111 on Saturday, frustrated Atlanta on Sunday in a low-scoring game and then thumped Philadelphia 141-118 on Tuesday night. In that game, eight Nets scored in double digits, the squad scored 81 first-half points and it led the 76ers by as much as 39 points.
The Magic needed no more reminder of the embarrassment that the Nets can inflict after Brooklyn throttled them in the paint (72 points) and in bench scoring (72 points) in Saturday’s game. It was a rare dud for a Magic team that has competed especially well against Charlotte, Oklahoma City, Boston and Cleveland of late.
“Against Brooklyn, we played lousy,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “That wasn’t good enough. All year, we’ve wanted to be focused on how we’re playing, the direction we’re going and are we improving. … We played Cleveland well and Boston well and we have to play Brooklyn well at our building. They’re playing good basketball now. We’ve got to compete and get a win.’’
Magic forward Aaron Gordon, Orlando’s most improved player since the all-star break, said his team needs to match the intensity that Brooklyn will bring to a game where little more than pride is on the line.
“We just need to continue to play hard and play together and establish an identity for ourselves and a standard of basketball,’’ said Gordon, who was one of the lone bright spots in last week’s loss to Brooklyn with 32 points and 16 rebounds. “We’re not focused on our opposition; we’re focused on our core, our values and going out and playing a style of basketball that we can rely on.’’
Gordon feels that the Magic have made major strides as a team since the all-star break. He likes the trust that the team is building with the ball movement and the support for one another. The final step, he said, is finishing off games with victories – starting tonight against a Brooklyn team it wants revenge against.
“I just like everybody’s confidence right now. The ball is moving very well and everybody is starting to understand each other,’’ Gordon said. “It’s definitely too late now (to make the playoffs), but it’s good that we’re building. We’ve just got to continue to work and play and one of these days it will click.’’
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