Magic’s strong start undone by Nets second-half surge
NEW YORK — Going into their second straight appearance in the postseason, Nets coach Jason Kidd was looking to see how his players would respond in certain situations.
Kidd used a bigger starting lineup after having gone smaller for most of the season since center Brook Lopez was hurt in December.
Then with a 12-point fourth-quarter lead down to six with 5:27 left, the rookie coach inserted most of his starters back into the game on Sunday night.
Mirza Teletovic scored a team-high 20 points, Joe Johnson and Mason Plumlee each added 17 and the Nets beat the Orlando Magic 97-88.
The Nets have two games remaining in the regular season before the playoffs start next weekend.
"We got to continue to get better each time we take the floor," Kidd said. "That’s one reason why I brought those guys back late in the fourth, was to give them … different situations of time and score and being able to execute and get stops."
Deron Williams had 16 points, five assists and four steals for the Nets, who have a two-game lead for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race over the idle Washington Wizards.
Brooklyn’s two games are against the crosstown rival New York Knicks on Tuesday night and at Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Johnson said he’s been doing some scoreboard watching with the third and fourth seeds still unsettled.
The Chicago Bulls, who eliminated the Nets in seven games in the first round last season, are tied for the third spot with the Atlantic Division champion Toronto Raptors.
"I’m a basketball junkie so I definitely pay attention," the Nets All-Star guard said.
"We’ve got to try to fine-tune and keep this chemistry that we have going into the postseason."
Tobias Harris led the Magic with 18 points, who have lost their past two games and 14 of 18.
Orlando, the third-worst team in the NBA, fell to 4-36 on the road this season.
"Any time we lose, whether it is on the road or at home, it bothers me," Harris said.
Trailing 59-55 after a Victor Oladipo dunk with 6:59 remaining in the third quarter, Brooklyn went on a 15-0 run.
Plumlee, who along with Teletovic combined for nine points during the spurt, started the comeback with a tip-in shot after Williams missed a 3-pointer and capped it off with a pair of free throws to extend the lead to 70-59 with 3:23 left in the quarter.
Ronnie Price then hit a 3-pointer to end Orlando’s drought.
Kidd pulled most of his regulars after the end of the third, leading 79-70.
But he was then forced to bring most of them back after Orlando scored six straight points on a pair of free throws by Harris and a pair of dunks by Andrew Nicholson and E’Twaun Moore to pull to 87-81 with 5:27 remaining.
Kidd called a timeout soon after and the Nets responded with a 10-3 run to extend the lead to 97-84 with 1:07 to go.
Orlando led throughout most of the first half, shooting 54 percent from the floor, good enough for a 49-46 lead at halftime.
NOTES: Brooklyn C Brook Lopez, who broke his foot earlier this season, greeted fans on Fan Appreciation Night. Lopez, who fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot during a game on Dec. 20 at Philadelphia, watched from the bench. Lopez also had a procedure on March 3 to repair a torn tendon and tighten the lateral ligaments in his left ankle. … The Nets have won 16 of their past 17 games at the Barclays Center and 23 of their past 26.