The Brooklyn Nets got off to a rough start Friday and dropped to eighth in the Eastern Conference standings as their season resumed in Orlando.
Evan Fournier scored 24 points and Nikola Vucevic had 22 as the Orlando Magic cruised to a 128-118 win over the Nets in both teams’ first regular season games since the coronavirus shutdown in mid-March.
Before the game, players and coaches took a knee while wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts as the national anthem was sung remotely.
The Magic (31-35) went on to blow out the Nets (30-35), who trailed by by 29 points after three quarters before a late flurry that forced Orlando to put starters back in for the closing minutes.
The loss drops Brooklyn into eighth place in the East, half a game behind the Magic.
Only the top seven teams are guaranteed playoff berths. The team that is eighth in the conference standings would be in a play-in tournament at the end of the regular season if it doesn’t lead the ninth-place team by more than four games.
The Nets next game is scheduled for Sunday afternoon against that ninth-place team, the Washington Wizards, who are six games back of Brooklyn.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot scored 24 points for the Nets and Caris LeVert had 17. Brooklyn lost for the first time in three games since Jacque Vaughn replaced Kenny Atkinson as coach on March 7.
The Nets are missing key players for their restart. Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Taurean Prince are out after they tested positive for the coronavirus. Brooklyn is already playing without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who had season-ending surgery.
So Brooklyn started two players who hadn't started an NBA game this season — one who never had. The Nets looked good at the beginning, shooting nearly 70 percent in the first quarter, but the Magic blew by them in winning for the third time in three meetings this season.
The Nets are the only New York team in the NBA restart in Orlando, as the league prioritized teams competing for a playoff spot or that had already secured one. The Knicks, at 21-45, were left out of the so-called “bubble” in Orlando, where all games are being held in a controlled environment to prevent travel as the pandemic rages on.