ORLANDO, Fla. - The circumstances were similar, yet different at the same time.
Back in November, when the Nets were riding an emotional high just hours after taking down the two-time defending champion Heat, they ventured here to the land of Mickey Mouse for a date with the undermanned but youthful Magic.
Orlando flattened the Nets on that day five months ago, thumping them by 21 points. Brooklyn was mostly healthy and whole then, unlike the circumstances they were in Wednesday night with Paul Pierce, Shaun Livingston and Andray Blatche sitting out while nursing a variety of ailments.
"We've seen it throughout the year of having big games and having a letdown," Nets coach Jason Kidd said before tipoff. "We talked about that this morning. Whoever is here in uniform . . . we are going to be without some guys, but there's no excuse. Next guy up and, again, after an emotional win, we've got to understand how to keep our emotions intact and find a way to win."
Kyle O'Quinn made sure no prayers were answered by blocking Joe Johnson's potential game-tying three-pointer with 9.9 seconds remaining to help send the Nets to a 115-111 loss at Amway Center.
By dropping the final game of their three-game road trip, the Nets (43-35) essentially lost any hope that they might catch the division-leading Raptors or the Bulls and are basically locked into the fifth seed. They're three games behind both and don't hold the tiebreaker against either team. That means a possibility of Kidd giving some of his key players a rest over the next week heading into the postseason.
Kevin Garnett, who was effective with five points, eight rebounds and a season-high six assists, wants to play on. But there's at least one member of the Nets who wouldn't mind a rest.
"It would be good to get a couple of days here and there," Deron Williams said. "We've only got four games left, so it probably won't be too much rest."
Initially, it looked like the Nets were already in rest mode against the Magic (23-55), falling behind by as many as 16 points. But the Nets were right there at the end, though they were unable to get a crucial defensive stop when they needed it most.
Marcus Thornton lost Mo Harkless as he was cutting toward the baseline and O'Quinn hit Harkless in stride for an easy dunk, handing Orlando a 110-107 edge. Johnson, who led the Nets with 31 points, cut the deficit to 110-109 with a floater in the lane with 14.5 seconds left, but Jameer Nelson sank a pair of free throws with 13.6 seconds remaining to push the lead back to three, ending any true chance for a Nets' comeback.
"This was a game that we needed to win, man," Johnson said. "We haven't been great on back-to-backs, but I just thought we got out of the gate slow, especially in that second quarter. We fought back and even took the lead, but we couldn't come up with the big plays defensively. We couldn't get stops. They put up a lot of points. We couldn't get stops, we couldn't get big rebounds. They just killed us."