Nets at Magic game preview
While the Brooklyn Nets have been unstoppable during their franchise-record home streak, they may be starting to build some confidence on the road after a game-saving block against the defending champs.
That could be crucial since the Nets appear likely to open the Eastern Conference playoffs without home-court advantage.
After sweeping the season series from Miami, Brooklyn looks to match a season high with its third straight road win Wednesday night when it takes on the Orlando Magic.
The Nets (43-34) haven’t lost at home since Jan. 31 while rattling off a franchise-best 15 straight wins, but they had been just 6-10 away from Barclays Center over that same stretch before winning the first two on this three-game trip.
Following Saturday’s 105-101 win at Philadelphia that snapped a three-game road skid, Mason Plumlee denied LeBron James’ dunk attempt with two seconds left Tuesday as the Nets finished off a four-game sweep of Miami with an 88-87 victory.
”My initial thought was to just foul and make him earn it at the free-throw line,” Plumlee said after his controversial block gave Brooklyn its sixth win in seven games overall.
Joe Johnson finished with 19 points, Marcus Thornton had 16 off the bench and Paul Pierce added 14. Plumlee, starting in place of Kevin Garnett, contributed eight points, eight rebounds and had two of his three blocks in the last two minutes.
”He still got to come in here and carry the bags and get the towels,” Pierce said of the rookie center.
The Nets are expected to have Garnett in the middle after he sat out Tuesday to avoid playing in back-to-back games. The veteran big man finished with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 13 minutes Saturday in his first game since missing more than five weeks with back spasms.
Although they’re an East-best 33-13 in 2014, the Nets appear to be locked in as the fifth seed in the playoffs. With just five games remaining, they’re two games behind both Toronto and Chicago for home-court advantage in the first round.
Brooklyn hopes to continue playing well on the road as it goes after its first three-game winning streak there since Jan. 16-26.
The last-place Magic (22-55) had dropped 12 of 14 before shooting 54.4 percent from the field — including 9 for 17 from 3-point range — in a 100-92 home win over Minnesota on Saturday.
Arron Afflalo broke out of his shooting slump with 18 points, Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris had 17 apiece as Orlando rallied from 13 down in the second half. Afflalo, averaging a team-high 18.5 points, had scored 10.0 per game while shooting 29.8 percent over his previous five.
”There were a lot of good story lines from this game,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. ”We got a lot of contributions all across the board. We had 29 assists, hit the open guy and trusted the consequences of whatever came from it.”
Now Vaughn’s club might get a boost with the return of Nikola Vucevic, who has missed the past two games because of a sore Achilles. The 7-foot center had 19 points and 12 rebounds in a 107-86 home win over Brooklyn on Nov. 3, before sitting out a 101-90 road loss Jan. 21 because of a concussion.
The Magic have dropped five of the last six meetings after a 10-game win streak in the series.