BROOKLYN, N.Y. - Maybe it's a sign of the changing times in the NBA or the rapid improvement of the Brooklyn Nets, but try this on for size: Before the weekend, the Nets had not defeated the Magic in almost three years, dating back to 2009 in a stretch that lasted 10 games.
But coming off the huge 39-point win over the Magic in Orlando Friday night and their 82-74 victory over the Magic at the Barclays Center Sunday afternoon, the Nets have now knocked off the Magic twice in a span of three days.
"It could be a sign that we're making up for lost time," said Nets center Brook Lopez, who had a game-high 20 points in leading the Nets to the eight-point victory. "We all knew how hard it is to beat the same team twice. It was good for us and hopefully it has a positive carryover as we go on. It used to be that people looked forward to playing us. We want to turn that around and make people fear us."
Besides Lopez, the Nets got 14 points and 21 rebounds from forward Kris Humphries, his second double-double of the season.
"I think it was just a case of concentrating on defense and being aggressive, going after the ball more," Humphries said. "It's very hard to beat a team twice in a row like that. We knew that they would be better today and make a run at us."
Lopez nailed a lane jumper with 59.1 seconds left that quelled a fourth-quarter run by Orlando. Humphries had a huge block on an attempt from Glen Davis with 29 seconds left to seal the deal.
Deron Williams chipped in with 17 points for Brooklyn, while Joe Johnson added 13. However, the All-Star backcourt struggled from the floor, shooting a combined 8-for-25.
"When they're shooting the ball, I'm thinking the ball is naturally going in," Nets head coach Avery Johnson said about his backcourt. "When it doesn't go in, I'm surprised. We should have shot it better as a team today. When you beat a team by 40 points, it's tough to convince our players that they have a lot of pride and would come back. "
Arron Afflalo had 19 points, and Davis had 19 and 10 rebounds to pace the Magic. Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Orlando.
The Nets took command of the game in the last 1:12 of the first quarter, scoring 11 straight points during that span, and they never relinquished the lead the remainder of the game, despite some close moments in the fourth quarter.
C.J. Watson started the run by nailing a 3-pointer, and he proceeded to steal the ensuing inbounds pass to get a layup and a foul. Watson scored six points in a span of just four seconds. Jerry Stackhouse canned a 3-pointer and Reggie Evans added two free throws to cap the 11-0 run, giving the Nets a 35-17 lead at the end of the first period. Orlando made just six of 23 from the floor in the first period.
After Andray Blatche made a power move down low, giving the Nets their biggest lead of the half at 37-17, the Magic reeled off eight straight points, six coming on two conventional 3-point plays by Afflalo, slicing the lead to 37-25.
"I think it was just a matter of focus that brought us back," said Magic first-year head coach Jacque Vaughn, who once played for the Nets. "We were able to push the ball and get early transition buckets that we didn't get earlier and that helped us. I think it was just an overall better effort focus-wise."
Brooklyn held a comfortable 50-35 lead at the break, with Lopez leading the way with 12 points. Afflalo had 13 in the first half for Orlando.
Lopez hit a power layup in the closing seconds of a listless third quarter, giving the Nets a 63-53 lead after three periods.
The Nets increased the lead to 68-53 by scoring the first five points of the fourth quarter, but then the Magic went on a 9-2 run to close the gap to 70-62 on a steal and driving layup from J.J. Redick.
Davis hit a power move down low with 2:10 left that brought the Magic to 75-70, but Williams countered with a jumper that gave the Nets a 77-70 lead with 1:53 left.
"It's definitely been a lot of fun," Lopez said. "I think we all feel like we're part of something pretty special here."
"We're still not where we want to be and have a lot of work to do," Humphries said. "We're still getting familiar with each other. But we're definitely moving in the right direction, no question we're a different team and a better team."
NOTES: Brooklyn's Gerald Wallace did not dress for the fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle and MarShon Brooks joined Wallace on the sidelines, also with a sprained left ankle. The Nets lost the most manpower in the NBA last season due to injuries...Jameer Nelson (strained hamstring) did not play for the Magic. Al Harrington (knee surgery) and Hedo Turkoglu (broken hand) did not make the trip...Blatche and Evans did their patriotic duty, honoring the veterans on Veterans Day by donning red, white and blue headbands that resembled the American flag.