Magic 97, Nets 87

With a month to go in the season, Stan Van Gundy isn’t very

happy with the way the Orlando Magic play with the lead.

Instead of putting teams away, the Magic have been letting them

hang around. It didn’t hurt against the woeful New Jersey Nets on

Friday night. The playoffs might be different.

“All year, losing the lead is how we play,” Van Gundy said

after the Magic defeated the Nets 97-87 for their fourth straight

win. “Give us a lead and we will play poorly at both ends of the

floor. I have absolutely no idea how to fix it.”

Matt Barnes scored 14 of his 16 points in the first quarter to

stake the Magic to a double-digit lead, but Orlando never could put

together a run to make the game a laugher.

“We’re just trying to get wins, get the job done,” said Vince

Carter, who scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half against

his former teammates. “Give credit to them. That team plays hard

regardless of the record. We got lax, but we got the job

done.”

Carter said Van Gundy was a little upset because the Nets were

able to cut the Magic’s 17-point, fourth-quarter lead to eight in

the waning minutes.

“We were able to close out. That’s all that matters,” Carter

said. “Our goal is to put teams away. We didn’t do it, but at the

same time, we found a way to get it done.”

Dwight Howard added 11 points and 16 rebounds, and the Magic hit

13 3-pointers in beating the Nets for the third time this

season.

“We know we have things to work on,” said point guard Jameer

Nelson, who had 15 points and eight of the Magic’s 24 assists.

“You don’t want to have a 17-point lead and see them cut it to

eight. It happened and we have to continue to work on it.”

Devin Harris had 17 points and 10 assists for the Nets (6-55),

who lost their third straight after stunning Boston last weekend.

Brook Lopez added 18 points and eight rebounds.

Terrence Williams added 14 points and Kris Humphries 12 as the

Nets fell to 3-28 at the not-so-friendly confines of the Izod

Center.

Jason Williams, who had 18 points in his last five games,

tallied 13 for Orlando.

The Nets held a press conference earlier Friday to trumpet their

temporary move to Newark next season and then gave another

unemotional effort against one of the top teams in the Eastern

Conference.

Barnes hit six of seven shots in the opening quarter and scored

12 straight points for Orlando in helping them take a 32-18

lead.

“We gave up a ton of transition points in first six, seven,

eight minutes of the first quarter,” Harris said. “We can’t spot

Matt Barnes 14 points in the first quarter. He’s a good player, but

we can’t let him have those types of numbers and expect to win. I

thought we did a decent job on Dwight for the most part, but we

gave them the head start.”

With Humphries, Terrence Williams and Jarvis Hayes all scoring

five points in the second quarter, the Nets managed to cut the lead

to seven points at the half.

Carter, traded to Orlando in a draft-day blockbuster that

cleared cap room for New Jersey in the upcoming offseason, scored

nine points in the third quarter to push the lead back to 15 and it

was never close again.

Carter actually had a 3-pointer taken away in the quarter during

a timeout when the officials reviewed the videotape and discovered

his shot didn’t beat the 24-second clock.

NOTES: Harris hit a 40-footer at the end of the first quarter,

but it came after the buzzer. … The Magic are 30-4 when they hit

10 or more 3-pointers. … Orlando is 30-11 against the Eastern

Conference. … Barnes and Van Gundy got hit with technical fouls

for arguing non-calls on what seemingly were obvious fouls. … New

Jersey never led in the game. … Nets starting shooting guard

Courtney Lee missed his third straight game with a sprained left

ankle.