BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The Orlando Magic headed into this season knowing there likely would be more rough nights than positive ones.
But even the most dire preseason predictions were optimistic compared to this.
With their defense continuing to flounder, the Magic fell to the Brooklyn Nets 97-77 Monday night at Barclays Center and lost for the 17th time in their last 19 games.
"I think if you want something to change, you've got to make a change," power forward Glen Davis said. "And we have to make a change. We can't pray that a team doesn't make shots. We have to make them miss shots."
The Nets made half of their shots, with point guard Deron Williams swishing wide-open 3-pointers, center Brook Lopez making wide-open dunks and layups, and former Magic wing Keith Bogans igniting a fourth-quarter run that put the game out of reach.
Sure, there were extenuating circumstances. The Magic played on the second night of a difficult back-to-back, and they played without their leading scorer, wing Arron Afflalo, who sat out because of a strained calf muscle.
But it all comes back to a single problem area: the defense, which performed so well during the first 25 games of the season but has cratered since Davis dislocated his left shoulder on Dec. 19. Even Davis' return on Jan. 14 hasn't stemmed the tide.
"We've shown glimpses recently in the last few games of what it was the first 25 games," said wing J.J. Redick. "Twenty-five games is a pretty large sample size to have a top-five or top-six defense. So we've done it. It's just a matter of being consistent and having the focus to do it every night."
The Magic trailed by as many as 18 points in the second quarter, then cut the Nets' lead to 70-63 at the end of the third quarter.
But Brooklyn started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run — sparked by two 3-pointers by Bogans — and stamped out the momentum Orlando had generated.
It was all too easy.
"You can blame a lot of things on why the run ended," Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said. "But we had guys who were out there fighting and playing together and trying to win. We made a good push, and obviously it wasn't good enough. But I think guys did run out of gas. But that's part of it. You have to fight through that."
One night after he tied a career high by scoring 31 points, Redick dished out 10 assists, also a career high. But he made just two of the 13 shots he attempted and finished with five points.
Afflalo's absence prompted coach Jacque Vaughn to start Maurice Harkless for the first time since Dec. 29, and Harkless responded by scoring a career-high 16 points.
"It's something to build on," Harkless said. "I've got to keep working."
Hedo Turkoglu played his first game since Jan. 7, and he was largely ineffective, scoring four points on 2-of-5 shooting in about 12 minutes.
"It was good to see him back out there," Vaughn said. "He looked pretty comfortable. I didn't want to play him too much, but I gave him some minutes to see how he was feeling conditioning-wise, rhythm-wise."
The Nets (27-18) swept the four-game season series over the Magic (14-30).
Orlando's five-game/nine-day road trip will continue with matchups against the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers.
"I think something needs to push this team over the hump," Davis said. "Someone, somebody that's playing has to push this team over the hump, because there's times in the game where we need a bucket or we need a stop, and it would change the ballgame."
firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/magicblog and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.Copyright © 2015, CT Now