Nets coach Lionel Hollins recently said the coach’s seat always is hot, but his seat seemed to get hotter and hotter in proportion to each easy basket his team yielded to the Magic in a 105-82 loss Monday night at Barclays Center. The Nets played like a team that had stopped listening to their coach while allowing Orlando to shoot 53.9 percent from the field.
The Magic (13-11) converted at a rate of 57 percent or better in three of the four quarters while holding the Nets (7-17) to 38.8 percent from the field for the game. The Nets trailed by seven at halftime and never got closer as the Magic blew the game open with a 31-point third quarter and then held the Nets to 13 points in the fourth quarter.
“We just didn’t put forth enough effort to even be competitive in the game,” said point guard Jarrett Jack, who led the Nets with 15 points and seven assists. “When you do that, you get these embarrassing type of losses.
“To come out like this, I don’t know if it’s because [Orlando] is a team that name-wise you might not be familiar with. It may not be a team that you get up for, but you can obviously see that they’re taking on their coach’s personality in Scott Skiles and being a tough, gritty team that has been grinding out tough wins for the first quarter of the season.”
There was nothing to indicate that remark was a shot at Hollins, but the optics from the Nets’ listless effort didn’t exactly fortify the coach’s status. Hollins said he was pleased with his team’s play for the first quarter and a half, but added, “We started standing and holding the ball too much. In the second half, their offense broke us down. [Nikola] Vucevic and [Andrew] Nicholson kind of took control of the game.”
Vucevic led the Magic with 18 points, including 12 in the third quarter; Elfrid Payton added 17, and they got 15 each from Nicholson and Tobias Harris, the former Half Hollow Hills West star. Late in the third quarter, Orlando began a 20-4 run that extended into the fourth quarter as the lead climbed to 99-73.
One reason the Nets struggled could be traced to the offensive problems of stars Brook Lopez, who had 11 points on 4-for-15 shooting, and Joe Johnson, who was held to six on a 2-for-8 night.
“I definitely take responsibility for this,” Lopez said. “I felt I was a complete negative for our team. I kind of let us down and held us back. I definitely need to be better, and I know I can be.”
Asked if the Nets needed to ramp up the defensive effort when they couldn’t get shots to fall, Lopez said, “Definitely. Absolutely. It’s an effort game down there. When it’s not going down [on offense], you’ve got to definitely change the game up, kind of make it a scrappier, dirtier game.”
In Jack’s view, the Nets’ problems ultimately came down to effort. “This was us,” Jack said. “Us looking at each other in the eyes, us making sure each one of us is ready to bring forth the necessary effort to win the game, starting with your individual matchup and then, collectively, us trying to help each other if we have breakdowns and being able to cover one another.
“We should be embarrassed, one through 15.”