Magic storm past Nets for second straight win, 139-105
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) It's no longer about a playoff push for the Orlando Magic. That opportunity is long since gone.
But a chance to improve and take another step as a team has become a rallying point as the Magic recorded rare back-to-back wins in defeating Brooklyn 139-105 on Tuesday night in a matchup of teams that will miss the playoffs. The Magic, which also blew out Chicago on Saturday night, had not won back-to-back games since defeating Atlanta twice in February.
Suddenly a team with seemingly little to play for is rolling.
''We just try to stay present,'' said Aaron Gordon, who led Magic starters with 20 points. ''It definitely would have meant more if we were chasing a playoff spot but we are still improving and still learning and becoming more familiar with each other.''
The Magic looked like the team coach Scott Skiles had hoped for all season as they used strong defense to ignite the offense and got each other involved with 40 assists total. Orlando had eight players in double figures with Andrew Nicholson coming off the bench to lead all scorers with 24 points on 9-for-9 shooting, including 3 for 3 from 3-point range.
The 139 points were the most the Magic have scored since dropping the same on Sacramento in 2009.
The Magic shot a blistering 62 percent, their best percentage in more than eight years. Elfrid Payton was the catalyst as he turned in his second straight double-double with 11 points and 12 assists.
''Continue to have that ball movement, don't let the ball stick in one person's hand,'' said Jason Smith, who came off the bench to score 14 points. ''We had a lot of guys who were on fire tonight.''
The Magic started out sluggish in the first quarter, but came to life on the first of two crowd-pleasing dunks by Gordon. He made his first six shots in the first quarter and finished the first half with 16 points as Orlando opened a 73-45 halftime lead to all but put the Nets away.
''I think the mindset of the whole team, myself included, I think guys are worried that there's not much time left, we're not fighting for anything,'' said Nets forward Thomas Robinson, who led his team with 18 points after starting for Thaddeus Young. ''No knock on our team, but mentally it's tough to keep fighting in games and showing up every night the way things are going for us, and the end of the season being so close. I think that's a problem we've got to shake real quick.''
The Nets had no answers as the Magic increased their lead to as many as 37 points in the second half. Orlando had 22 fast break points compared to just eight by Brooklyn.
''We're a really fast team,'' Gordon said. ''When we can get stops and we can run, we are very dangerous.''
Skiles was pleased with how his team rebounded from a sluggish start that saw the Nets take a brief six-point lead in the first quarter.
''We started out slow, but you could see the guys kind of start to pick it up after four or five minutes into the game and then we just started finding each other and making shots,'' said Skiles. ''Sometimes it's that simple.''
Now they key for the Magic is keeping the momentum going to conclude the season. They believe they may have found the winning formula.
''Continue doing what we are doing,'' Gordon said. ''We played hard, we played smart and we shared the ball and trusted each other. If we can continue to do that we will continue to get wins.''
Magic: Center Nikola Vucevic returned to practice Monday but he sat out his 13th straight game Tuesday night as he recovers from a groin sprain. Skiles said the team's leading scorer could return for either Thursday's game against Indiana or at Milwaukee on Friday. ... Victor Oladipo, the team's second-leading scorer, returned to the starting lineup after sitting out the last two games with a wrist sprain. He had 7 points.
Nets: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Thaddeus Young did not play and Jarrett Jack was inactive.
Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers on Thursday.
Brooklyn Nets at Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.