Magic defeat Nets, snap five-game slide
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton is driven today by the thought of next season.
It’s the only way to be.
Payton is finishing with a flourish, even if his team is not, as Orlando snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the lowly Brooklyn Nets, 115-107 Thursday night.
“Sure, I’m thinking about next year, making sure we build some chemistry, establish something positive, leave an imprint to build upon,” Payton said. “You have to leave with something positive, something to make you feel good about the future.”
Payton, now in his third NBA season, had 22 points, 11 assists, and five rebounds Thursday, continuing to establish himself as a team leader in the second half of the season. He has recorded five triple-doubles since March 1.
“You’re still playing for this year. You play every game like it means something, because it does,” he said. “You’re trying to get better every game.”
Although the Magic (28-51) may be rebuilt this summer after their fifth consecutive season without reaching the playoffs, Payton looks like an Orlando building block, along with power forward Aaron Gordon, who was on the receiving end of almost half his assists.
Gordon had 21 points and made nine of his 15 shots, three of which were alley-op dunks from Payton.
“It’s been a tough year for us in terms of wins and losses,” Magic coach Frank Vogel said. “But those two have gotten better and better as the season went on. And their confidence has grown together.”
Center Nikola Vucevic had 18 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Jodie Meeks, starting in place of Evan Fournier, had 20 points while Mario Hezonja scored 11.
Jeremy Lin scored a season-high 32 points for the Nets (19-59), who never led in the second half and had their season-high three-game winning streak snapped.
Caris LeVert scored 20 points for the Nets, including 12 in the final five minutes when they closed to within five points. But they never got any closer. Spencer Dinwiddie had 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Brook Lopez, Isaiah Whitehead and Justin Hamilton each scored 10 points.
“I think they just outplayed us,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We just didn’t do the things defensively that were necessary to keep us in the game. Quite honestly, they were the better team.”
Meeks, who was scoreless in the first half, scored 18 points in the third period, including four 3-pointers, giving the Magic an 86-71 lead. Meeks scored 13 consecutive points in a two-minute stretch midway in the period, opening a 71-57 advantage.
The Magic scored the last six points of the first half, then eight of the first nine in the second half for a 58-51 lead they never lost.
“Meeks got hot. He hit a lot of crazy shots, and I think we got away from our principles of transition defense,” Lin said. “I still think there is more I can do. We missed a lot of shots, and they were more physical than they were the last time.”
Lin scored 17 points in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers in the second period when the Nets grabbed a 50-44 lead, their largest of the game.
Payton had 12 points in the first half. Payton hit a pair of baskets late in the second period to tie the game at 50. They opened the second quarter with a 9-1 run and grabbed a 31-26 lead.
At one point in the second period, the Magic played Stephen Zimmerman, Marcus Georges-Hunt and Patricio Garino -- all in the NBA Development League much of the season -- together.
NOTES: Magic leading scorer Evan Fournier (17.2 points per game) missed the game with a sore right wrist. ... The Magic stopped playing veteran F Jeff Green for the season, giving his playing time to less-experienced Aaron Gordon and Mario Hezonja. Green is on a one-year contract paying him $15 million. “I wanted to finish out the games,” he said. “But it was the team’s decision to shut me down.” Green is listed as having a sore lower back. ... Magic coach Frank Vogel said before the game that starting G Terrance Ross would play only the first half, but changed his mind by opening the third period with Ross. ... Nets C Brook Lopez needs 35 points to become the leading scorer in franchise history. ... The Nets beat the Magic 121-111 on Saturday in Brooklyn when Lopez scored 30. ... Nets PG Jeremy Lin said this late-season surge, winning six of the last 10 games, gave the team a new attitude. “We’re going into games now with higher expectations,” he said.