The quality of opponents for the Nets is about to pick up and like many teams facing that circumstance, the word trap game gets into the conversation. The Nets did all they could to ensure they would not fall victim to the infamous trap.
The Nets didn’t dominate for the entire 48 minutes, but were good enough for most of the night as they avoided their first three-game losing streak under P.J. Carlesimo with a 97-77 victory over the Magic.
They led for the final 40-plus minutes, withstood a comeback attempt in the third quarter and head into consecutive home games with Miami and Chicago on an eight-game home winning streak.
“We needed this win,” point guard Deron Williams said. “We needed to stop the bleeding after a two-game skid. We just had to get back to playing some defense.”
“We played two bad games,” reserve guard Keith Bogans added. “We know we didn’t play the way we’re capable of playing, so we watched a lot of film this morning and we wanted to come back and not make the mistakes we made in Memphis and Houston.”
When they needed a big play, the Nets received it, especially after a somewhat dreadful third quarter. Orlando sliced what at one point had been an 18-point to seven heading into the fourth.
Before getting those big plays, the Nets committed nine turnovers, missed all four of their 3-point attempts and 12 of 18 shots.
“We weren’t playing as a team,” Williams said. “[It was] just kind of individuals doing their own thing. We’re not at our best when we’re doing that.”
“I thought we defended decently but I said, ‘If we keep turning the ball over and missing shots, we’re going to lose the game,’” Carlesimo said. “We stopped turning the ball over and made some shots. I really like our defense, but in the third quarter our offense was atrocious.”
But Williams found a wide-open Bogans at the top of the key for a 3-pointer that restored the lead to double digits at 73-63 in the opening minute of the quarter. Then Bogans swiped the ball from Glen Davis in the low post and dished it to Williams, who found a cutting Marshon Brooks for a nice layup with 10:01 remaining.
After J.J. Redick missed a 3-pointer, Orlando was called for a loose-ball foul, Williams sprinted up the court and his precise pass found Bogans open in the left corner ready to catch and shoot.
When Bogans sunk the shot at the 9:27 mark, the Nets had their sizable lead restored, this time for good as the chants of “Brooklyn, Brooklyn” returned from the crowd.
“It was huge for us,” Brook Lopez said. “[Bogans] made the big-time plays, clutch plays, when we needed them and I think we really played out of our defense and when we’re playing defense like that and able to run, we get great looks.”
Williams was spectacular most of the night, especially in the first half. He started out aggressively by making seven of his first eight shots en route to a 20-point night and then became a distributor by dishing out six of his nine assists in the second half.
Joe Johnson was steady with a 13-point night and Lopez looked dominant at times finishing with 16 points in front of fans lobbying him to take Rajon Rondo’s place at the All-Star Game. Reggie Evans grabbed 10 rebounds while Bogans scored nine of his 12 in the fourth quarter.
The Nets started somewhat sluggishly and found themselves in a 15-15 tie after Jameer Nelson knocked down a 3-pointer with 4:11 to play in the first quarter. The next eight-plus minutes were an impressive display on both ends as Williams and Johnson combined for 10 points as the Nets took a 30-20 lead into the second.
The lead stretched to 18 before a brief slump put the Magic on the verge of striking distance. But the Nets kept the lead safe and took a 56-40 edge into the break.
Follow Nets beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.