Something seemed amiss from the opening minute Friday night.
The Orlando Magic’s Nik Vucevic appeared to corral a defensive rebound, but the Brooklyn Nets’ Brook Lopez ripped the ball out of Vucevic’s hands and then went up strong for a layup. Lopez, a player not known for his passion, only had just started. Baskets, rebounds, blocks — he did it all in the first half.
And he wasn’t the only one. The Nets played with more intensity most of the game, and they crushed the Magic 107-68 in front of an announced crowd of 17,532 at Amway Center.
“I just know we need to play hard,” Orlando power forward Glen Davis said. “They were in the there doing whatever they wanted.”
The Magic played with such minimal physicality that they didn’t attempt a single foul shot until Reggie Evans committed a Flagrant-1 foul against Gustavo Ayón with 2:35 remaining in the third quarter. Ayón missed the ensuing attempts, and the team didn’t make a free-throw until Kyle O’Quinn sank a pair of them with 5:41 left in regulation.
“We had zero free-throws at halftime, and they were the aggressors,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “Brooklyn came out and played extremely well. They were coming off two losses as well, and they showed a desire to fight and try to get a win.”
The Nets (2-2) dominated the Magic (2-3) in every area.
Brooklyn outrebounded Orlando 48 to 35, outscored Orlando in the paint 46 to 30 and piled up 22 second-chance points to Orlando’s six.
Basically, it was a thorough, relentless drubbing.
“We’ve got a lot to work on — defensively being the main issue,” Arron Afflalo said. “The good thing is we play that team [again] Sunday, so I think it’ll be a great chance for us to see if we can truly learn from tonight.”
As Friday’s tipoff approached, Lopez insisted that he didn’t pay attention to the Nets’ attempts to trade him over the summer for Dwight Howard.
But, a few hours later, the 7-foot center from Stanford played as if a giant chip had been positioned on each of his shoulders. He scored 11 of Brooklyn’s first 15 points and he set the tone for the rout that followed.
The next three quarters also were ugly for Orlando, which played without injured starting point guard Jameer Nelson and injured starting small forward Hedo Turkoglu.
Vaughn and many of his players repeatedly have said their team needs to play with all-out effort every game in order to compete against most teams. Against the Nets, a team that includes stars Deron Williams and Joe Johnson, the Magic couldn’t afford any lapses.
Williams and Johnson didn’t play great on Friday, but the Nets didn’t need them to be spectacular, or anything close to spectacular.
Brooklyn’s 38-year-old Jerry Stackhouse hit three 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 11 points.
“We are a bigger team and have guys that can be physical,” Stackhouse said. “It is just a matter of coming in with the mindset of hitting first.”
E’Twaun Moore, who started at point guard in Nelson’s place, scored a team-high 18 points for Orlando, but he also turned the ball over six times.
The Magic now have lost three consecutive games.
They dropped a hard-fought game Tuesday in Chicago, but they turned in a clunker Wednesday night in Minneapolis on the second night of a back-to-back.
The team could not use fatigue as an excuse against the Nets.
“Now they think they can beat us bad,” Davis said. “We haven’t even showed them we can play. We haven’t shown them anything yet. So we’ll remember this. Sunday, we’ll go out there and play as hard as we can.”