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Nets rely on defense to stop two-game slide

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- After losing two straight on the road to Memphis and Houston, and playing lackluster defense in both games, the Brooklyn Nets went back to basics Monday night at home against the Orlando Magic.

"We dropped two straight and needed a win," said Deron Williams, who had 20 points and nine assists in the Nets' 97-77 win over the Magic on Monday night at the Barclays Center. "We talked about playing better defense and we were able to get it going. We came home and played well."

"Defense was the thing we focused on," said Nets interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, whose record improved to 13-4 since replacing Avery Johnson last month. "I really liked our defensive effort the entire game. It was the thing we did best."

The win enabled the Nets (27-18) to snap the two-game losing streak, winning for the eighth straight game at home. It's the longest home win streak for the Nets' franchise since 2006, when they won nine in a row.

The loss was the sixth straight for the Magic (14-30), who lost all four games to Brooklyn this season.

Besides the offensive output from Williams, the Nets got 16 points from Brook Lopez, who also credited the team's defensive effort.

"They have good 3-point shooters and we got out on them," Lopez said. "We just had to execute our game plan. We have some tough games coming up, so this was huge for us.

"For most of the night, we limited them to one shot. We played better defense, and when we play defense like that, we're tough to stop."

The Nets held guard J.J. Redick to 1-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, one game after he went for 8 of 11 and scored 31 points in a loss to Detroit. They limited Redick and backcourt mate Jameer Nelson to 5-of-25 shooting from the floor combined. The Magic made just 6 of 27 3-point shots.

It gave the Nets 11 wins in January, their second 11-win month this season, joining November as 11-win months. It's the first time in franchise history that the Nets won 11 games in two months in the same season.

The Nets outscored the Magic 23-4 in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, blowing the game open in the process. Orlando went scoreless for a five-minute span of the fourth quarter.

The Magic were paced by Nikola Vucevic, who had 18 points. Rookie Moe Harkless, a New York native, added 16 and Glen Davis had 15.

Even though the Nets cruised to the victory, they matched a season high with 20 turnovers.

Brooklyn shot 65 percent from the floor in the first quarter, led by a torrid Williams, who had his second straight hot first quarter. Williams had 20 in the first quarter Saturday and had 12 in the opening quarter Monday.

"Deron has had two monster first quarters in a row," Carlesimo said. "When he's got it going that good, we just hope to keep it going. We just felt that their guards were a little undersized and had tough matchups against Deron and Joe (Johnson, who added 13 points), so we went to them a little more than normal early on."

Williams helped Brooklyn gain a 30-20 lead after one quarter. Keith Bogans (12 points) nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Nets the 10-point cushion entering the second quarter.

"I was just trying to be more aggressive," Williams said. "I was getting better shots."

The Nets started the second quarter on an 8-0 run, pushing the lead to 38-20 with 9:43 left in the first half.

The Nets led 56-40 at halftime, with Williams scoring 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the floor. Lopez added 12. The Magic got 12 points from Vucevic.

The Magic didn't attempt a free throw for the first 32 minutes of the game. With 4:18 remaining in the third quarter, Davis was fouled while shooting and went to the line, making both, cutting the Brooklyn lead to 64-54.

The Magic gradually crept back into the game by outscoring the Nets 23-14 in the third quarter, slicing the lead to 70-63 after three quarters. Harkless hit two long 3-pointers for the Magic and Vucevic continued to contribute.

"We were out there fighting, playing together and trying to win," Nelson said. "We made a good push, but it wasn't good enough. We just ran out of gas. It's hard, but you have to fight through that."

But the Nets started the fourth quarter on fire, with Bogans hitting two big 3-point shots and MarShon Brooks making a driving layup, extending the lead to 79-63 with 9:14 left.

"It wasn't just the 3-point shots that broke the game open," Carlesimo said of Bogans. "Boges was chasing J.J. (Redick) all night long. His defense was solid."

"Playing back-to-back nights took its toll on us," Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn said. "It happened fast. We got back in the game in the third, but they just gradually built the lead from there."

NOTES: Carlesimo was concerned about his team's recent two-game slide. "Without question, our defense slipped," Carlesimo said before the game. "In particular, our transition defense. If you don't defend well, you get hammered on the boards. Hopefully, it was an aberration. I was very disappointed and very concerned with the way we've slipped." ... Carlesimo was asked if Williams had a better chance to be named as an NBA All-Star now that Celtics standout Rajon Rondo is lost for the year with a torn ACL. "I expect (NBA commissioner David Stern) will call me and ask me what I think. But it's still his decision. I don't even know if he's going to take a guard." ... The Magic played without leading scorer Arron Afflalo, who has a strained left calf. Afflalo is averaging 16.7 points per game. Harkless, who played college basketball at nearby St. John's, earned the start at forward in place of Afflalo. ... This was the fourth and final meeting between the teams this season. The Nets won the previous three games, including the 107-68 blowout in Orlando on Nov. 9. ... The Nets recalled Toko Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor from the Springfield Armor of the NBA Development League, but Shengelia is suffering from the effects of a concussion and was inactive Monday night.
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