ORLANDO, Fla. — For the second time this season, the Orlando Magic were able to do something that the defending NBA champions, the Miami Heat, have failed to accomplish this season – beating the Brooklyn Nets.
The Magic led most of the way Wednesday night and held on down the stretch for a 115-111 victory. It was their second win in a row and 23rd of the season, meaning they can finish with no worse than the third-worst record of any team in the league.
Even with Nikola Vucevic missing his third game in a row with a sore left Achilles tendon, the Magic turned in a solid all-around performance and withstood a 31-point effort from the Nets’ Joe Johnson.
"We’ve been in a lot of those (close games) this year where we weren’t able to come out with a victory," said Tobias Harris, who bounced back from a scoreless first half to finish with 16 points. "So tonight was a big step for us."
Arron Afflalo got them off to a good start with 11 points in the first quarter. But the biggest lift came off the bench from E’Twaun Moore, who hit all four of his 3-point attempts during a 21-3 run in the second quarter which gave the Magic a 16-point lead.
Moore also hit a 3 to end the third quarter and give the Magic an 83-78 lead after the Nets, who were coming off an 88-87 win Tuesday night at Miami, wiped out their earlier deficit.
"After you hit one or two shots, you just start feeling good," said Moore, who tied his season high with 17 points. "You feel like you’re on fire. So they keep coming to you, and you just knock it down."
"When we shoot with him in practice, he’ll go for like 15 or 20 in a row," Magic rookie Victor Oladipo said. "He can really shoot the ball. So when he gets hot, it’s always good for us."
The playoff-bound Nets were without Paul Pierce. He was held out because of right hip pointer, marking only the sixth game the 36-year-old veteran has missed all season. Kevin Garnett played for just the second time after missing more than five weeks with back spasms but spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench.
The Magic went ahead to stay with 4:24 remaining on a dunk by Dewayne Dedmon, who made his second start in a row in place of Vucevic. A dunk by Maurice Harkless and four free throws by Jameer Nelson in the final 30 seconds helped them hold off the Nets for good.
THE TURNING POINT
Kyle O’Quinn blocked Johnson’s potential game-tying 3-pointer with the Magic up 112-109.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
Afflalo had his best game in more than a month with 25 points.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Magic shot a season-high 55.8 percent from the floor, a figure which included 11 3-pointers in 24 attempts.
Friday night vs. Washington, 7 p.m. (FOX Sports Florida).