NBA Basketball

Nets look to finish strong vs. Magic

The Brooklyn Nets are getting off to good starts of late. Finishing games are the problem and a cause of their three-game losing streak.

The Nets hope to put together both components Wednesday night when they visit the Orlando Magic.

In losses to the Charlotte Hornets, Toronto Raptors, and Cleveland Cavaliers, the Nets are averaging 32 points and shooting 52.2 percent, including a 46.4 percent mark from 3-point range in the first quarter. Since being held to 25 points in the opening quarter of a 120-97 home loss to the Philadelphia, the Nets (23-51) owned leads at the end of the first quarter in seven straight games.

During those seven games, the Nets are averaging 33 points on 53 percent from the field and 50.7 percent from 3-point range.

Despite those solid numbers in the opening 12 minutes, Brooklyn has five losses in those games with an average margin of defeat of five points.

The reason?

Significantly different numbers in the final 12 minutes.

In the last three fourth quarters, the Nets are averaging 21.3 points on 34.4 percent shooting and in their last five defeats, they are averaging 23.2 points on 36.3 percent shooting in the final 12 minutes.

The stark differences appeared Sunday in a 121-114 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Nets never led by more than nine points, they wound up getting outscored 34-25 in the fourth quarter when they shot 8 of 19 and allowed the Cavaliers to make 12 of 18 field goals.

Joe Harris scored a career-high 30 points with 25 coming in the first 36 minutes. His showing occurred after D'Angelo Russell posted his first career triple-double when the Nets were outscored 32-21 in the final quarter of a four-point loss at Toronto.

"We've been competing with every team," Brooklyn forward DeMarre Carroll said. "That's what stinks. I'm a leader, and I tell them there's no moral victories. We want to win the game."

There may not be any moral victories but there are plenty of close games for the Nets. Brooklyn is 11-15 in games decided by five points or less, 15-27 in games decided by single digits and 15-31 in games that have been within five points in the last five minutes.

Brooklyn also is 17-11 when they lead or are tied after the third quarter.

"You've got to be able to execute down the stretch," Harris said. "It's something that we've struggled with a little bit as of late. It's all a learning experience and we're trying to get better day by day."

Orlando (22-51) is 2-8 in its last 10 games since winning consecutive home games against the Detroit Pistons and Memphis Grizzlies on March 2-3. The Magic have seen their production slump of late by averaging 95 points on 42.1 percent shooting and unlike the Nets they are struggling in the opening quarters by averaging 24.6 points.

Orlando started off decently, overcame a 12-point second quarter and scored 39 points in the third in a 105-99 home win over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. The Magic shot 44 percent overall but shot 53.5 percent after halftime and recorded 10 of their 29 assists in the fourth quarter.

"As a group, we want to play with the pass and everybody is reminded of that multiples times throughout the day," Magic coach Frank Vogel told reporters. "In the stretches where we looked really good, it was mostly done with the pass.

Aaron Gordon nearly recorded his first career triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in his third game back from missing nearly two weeks with a head injury.

"That was a pretty good all-around game," Gordon said. "If I draw attention from the defense, I pass and once the defensive attention leaves, I can score again so it's a balance that I'm still working on as a young player."

The Magic will be trying to replicate one of their better games of late without three rotation players. Jonathon Simmons will miss his fourth straight game with a wrist injury, rookie Jonathan Issac is expected to sit for the third game with a foot injury while Evan Fournier will miss his ninth straight contest with a knee injury.

The Nets won two of the first three meetings, which were by a combined 12 points. Gordon scored 41 in Orlando's 125-121 home win on Oct. 24 when the Magic outscored the Nets 38-25 in the fourth quarter.

Updated March 27, 2018

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