Nets 98 Magic 86
- Last Updated: 4:26 AM, December 1, 2012
- Posted: 1:16 AM, December 1, 2012
ORLANDO, Fla. — How do you win without your starting center?
Hitting a bunch of 3-pointers is a good place to start.
With Brook Lopez out with a sprained right foot, the Nets recovered from an uninspired first half by going 6-for-7 from 3-point range in the third quarter — including a perfect 4-for-4 from Gerald Wallace — to pull away from the Magic and cruise to a 98-86 victory last night inside a lifeless Amway Center and earn their fifth straight win.
“We just got a lot of open shots and guys knocked them down,” said Deron Williams, who finished with 11 points and seven assists. “It was not a plan to come down and shoot 3s. ... It’s just how it played out.”
For Wallace, a hot shooting night was a welcome sight after he had struggled with his shot since returning from the sprained left ankle that forced him to miss six straight games earlier this season.
But after entering the night shooting 36 percent overall and 24 percent from 3-point range, Wallace got it going in a big way, going 7-for-9 and 5-for-6 from 3-point range to finish with 20 points. He also had four rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot.
“It feels good to see the ball go in the basket,” Wallace said. “The one thing about it was my teammates always told me to keep shooting. Don’t hesitate, don’t think about it and I knew my legs were going to come back. ... I’m starting to feel good about them, and I’m not just looking to settle for the shot. My main thing is to try to get to the basket, and have that explosiveness to have the lift on my drives.”
Wallace didn’t need to do much driving against the Magic, though, particularly in the third quarter. After Orlando (5-10) scored a pair of buckets to open the third and take a 48-45 lead, Wallace scored 12 of the next 22 points for the Nets, including a 3-pointer with 4:15 left to cap a 22-8 run that put the Nets ahead 67-56, giving them a cushion they did not relinquish.
“[Wallace] had his legs under him tonight,” coach Avery Johnson said. “He had good rotation on his ball. That’s one of the things we talked about. ... He wasn’t as flat [with his shot]. He was feeling really good.”
The Nets needed something to get them going in the third quarter after they were unable to pull away from a Magic team that was without three rotation players: Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington. The Nets held a slim 45-44 lead at halftime, thanks to Joe Johnson’s 6-for-8 shooting that netted him 13 of his game-high 22 points before the break.
“We just got a little bit more focused,” Williams said. “Our team wasn’t where it was supposed to be defensively in that first half. I think we just decided we were going to lock up and get serious. I think, because we got stops, it made us get out and run and get some easy baskets on the other end.”
Lopez’s absence didn’t help, as it broke up a bench unit that has been highly effective for the Nets this season. Lopez’s replacement, Andray Blatche, did fine sliding into his role in the starting lineup, finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot, but the production he had been bringing to the game off the bench was missed.
With Blatche starting and Jerry Stackhouse scheduled to have the night off to be ready for tonight’s game in Miami against the defending champion Heat, the Nets managed just 19 points off the bench. Several of those came in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach.
“We struggled there for a minute,” Avery Johnson said of his second unit. “We’ve got to try to figure that out, because [Blatche] is important to our second unit, and we knew Stackhouse wasn’t playing, and he’s been important to our second unit.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to have a little bit more of a normal look [tonight].”Follow @NYPostsports