NEWARK, N.J. -- The snow gave the Orlando Magic more trouble than the New Jersey Nets did on Monday night at the Prudential Center.
The Nets allowed the Magic to make a flurry of 3-pointers -- 12 to be exact -- and shoot 48.8 percent from the field as Orlando rolled to a 104-88 win and improved to 3-0 against New Jersey this season.
“This was a night, especially in the second half, [where] we just couldn’t get any stops,” Nets head coach Avery Johnson said. “[Dwight] Howard got going in the second half. In the first half we pretty much held him in check. We got him in a little foul trouble, that that’s why he’s a superstar. He comes back out in the second half and scores 17 points. He was dominant. We gave him different looks but he didn’t buy into our double teams in the second half. When we did double-team him their 3-point shooters got loose on us and our rotations didn’t get their quick enough.”
During his postgame press conference, Johnson also made light of the fact that his team didn’t have its regularly scheduled shootaround on Monday morning due to the inclement weather.
At best, it was an excuse. A lame one at that.
The Magic (19-12) didn’t have their morning shootaround either. Not only that, their team didn’t even get to The Rock until 5:35 p.m. because their first bus got stuck in a snowbank near the team’s Hoboken hotel. And when the game started 90 minutes later, Orlando looked like the team that was out-of-sync.
The Magic missed nine of their first 11 3-pointers and Howard -- plagued by foul trouble -- played just 11:34 of the opening 24 minutes. But with the Nets having more breakdowns on defense than the amount of cars stranded on the shoulders of the New Jersey Turnpike during a blizzard, Orlando managed to shoot it at a 51.1 percent clip from the field and take a seven-point lead to the lockerroom despite attempting no free throws.
“I think that was really on us,” said center Brook Lopez, who finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. “We missed a lot of easy ones and we didn’t get stops.”
After the Nets (9-22) came out and took a two-point lead in the third quarter, the Magic finally began establishing Howard inside (11 points, 7-for-11 from the free throw line in the third) and capitalizing on his double teams, which opened up wide open shots from the perimeter. They led by just three with 4:34 left in the stanza, but Jason Richardson followed a Sasha Vujacic 3-pointer with one of his own and capped a mini 6-0 run by himself with a three-point play to put the Magic up 71-62. His two free throws made it 79-69 Orlando with 32.3 ticks remaining and J.J. Reddick went in for an uncontested layup to put the Magic ahead by 12 heading into the fourth quarter.
It only got worse from there.
Sparked by a 3-pointer from Hedo Turkoglu, Orlando came out with a flurry in the final period, scoring the first nine points, leading by as many as 23 and coming away with a 16-point win. Howard ended up with 19 points -- 17 of which as Johnson alluded to -- coming after the intermission.
“Those guys played very well together and I think we had a lot of breakdowns,” Lopez said. “We were just trying to get the ball out of Dwight’s hands when he was in scoring areas. We were doing a great job rotating in that first half, but then it all fell apart.”
The Magic ended up going 14-for-19 from the free throw stipe in the second half, while connecting on 7-of-13 3-point attempts.
“They’re a top team for a reason,” said point guard Devin Harris, who finished with a game-high 24 points and six assists. “They shoot the ball well and have a great presence inside.”
They also have great balance. Led by Turkoglu’s 20 points, the Magic had six scorers in double figures. And for a group that has hardly played with one another since the two trades that landed them Richardson, Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas, they have looked very cohesive on both ends of the floor.
The same, however, cannot be said for the Nets, who looked stagnant on offense when Harris wasn’t penetrating and Lopez wasn’t finishing inside the paint. New Jersey, which lost for the second straight time, shot it at just 39.7 percent and turned the ball over 14 times, looking much like the team that LeBron James believes should be [contracted].
“I thought we fought them pretty hard,” Harris said. “The second half we just were lethargic. We didn’t have energy. They made shots and we didn’t.”
Unfortunate for the crowd of 11,514 who braved the elements -- mainly two feet of snow -- to watch the game. But true.
The Magic made shots. The Nets didn't.
Maybe a shootaround would've helped.
Although the way Orlando was playing without one, maybe not.
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