Gordon scores 41 as Magic top Nets
ORLANDO, Fla. — Aaron Gordon played the game of his life Tuesday night, making the Orlando Magic feel as if the dark days are coming to an end.
Gordon scored a career-high 41 points. He grabbed 14 rebounds. He made 14 of his 18 shots and all five of his 3-point attempts, including the game-winner with 35 second remaining to beat the Brooklyn Nets 125-121.
“It was like heaven out there tonight,” he said. “We were just out there having fun, establishing ourselves as contenders. We got a lot of guys who are tired of the losing. It’s time to change things.”
The Magic, who have struggled through five consecutive losing seasons, have won three of their first four games for the first time since 2011.
“It’s about getting over the hump this year,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “Aaron was terrific tonight. It was evident from the first day of training camp that he’s an improved player. He wants to see this thing get turned around.”
Orlando’s Evan Fournier scored 28 points, including 12 points in the final 5:22. He gave the Magic their first lead of the second half, 112-110, with his second 3-pointer of the fourth quarter.
D’Angelo Russell led the Nets (2-2) with 29 points. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 18 points, and DeMarre Carroll had 17. Caris LeVert scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
D.J. Augustin, starting at point guard for the Magic in place of injured Elfrid Payton, scored 19 points and hit all eight of his free throws. Center Nikola Vucevic and reserve Jonathon Simmons each scored 12 points.
“This one wasn’t perfect, but we found a way,” Vucevic said. “At the end, we went back to what we can do well, and we were able to finish it off.”
The Nets grabbed a 121-120 lead with 48 seconds remaining when Carroll stole the ball from Vucevic and quickly scored. Russell had just hit three consecutive free throws to pull the Nets within one point.
Gordon then sank the winning 3-pointer. Fournier added two free throws to close the scoring. The Nets missed three consecutive 3-point tries on their final possession.
“We had opportunities,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We missed a lot of open looks. But the big story of the game was putting them on the free-throw line 40 times. You can’t do that.”
The Magic made 35 of 40 foul shots. The Nets made 30 of 34 from the line. Orlando also shot 49.4 percent (41 of 83) from the field, while Brooklyn hit just 41.7 percent (40 of 96).
“Man, we were close. We kind of gave it to them,” said Russell, who made only nine of 24 shots. “They didn’t force us into mistakes, we just kind of gave it to them. Guys made plays down the stretch.”
The Nets, who came into game as the NBA’s scoring leader (124.5 points-per-game), were outscored 38-25 in the final period.
The Nets led 96-87 going into the fourth quarter. They led by as many as 12 points in the third when Carroll scored nine points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Carroll completed a four-point play midway in the third for the 73-66 lead.
Gordon, who missed the previous two games with a sprained left ankle, led everyone with 24 points in the first half when he hit 9 of 11 shots and all three of his 3-point attempts.
The game was tied at 61 at intermission. The Nets led by as many as 10 points in the first half.
Russell was hot early, hitting four consecutive 3-pointers in the first five minutes. He had 15 at halftime while Hollis-Jefferson had 12.
NOTES: Magic PG Elfrid Payton, one of only 17 players in the NBA to play all 82 regular-season games last season, missed his second consecutive game with a sore left hamstring. He is expected to be out for another week. ... The Nets return home Wednesday to face the Cleveland Cavaliers. ... The Nets beat the Magic last week, 126-121, in Brooklyn, despite Nikola Vucevic scoring 41 points. ... Nets G Sean Kilpatrick missed the game for personal reasons. ... The Magic asked the NBA to be part of the league’s Global Games series next season, according to the Orlando Sentinel. They requested to play in the Far East. ... G Isaiah Whitehead, who played in 73 games for the Nets last season, was assigned to the team’s G-League Long Island team Monday but was recalled a few hours later. ... Orlando plays host to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.