A monster performance from Kyrie Irving was countered by a dominant Aaron Gordon, as the Orlando Magic picked up a big 121-113 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Nets, with Orlando scoring at will for most of the night.
Closing to 104-100 with over six minutes left, the Nets threatened to make a remarkable comeback before Orlando steadied down the stretch led by Gordon.
Let's jump to some takeaways from the game.
Brooklyn's defence (or lack of) hurts
Even without Kevin Durant in the lineup, scoring is not a problem for Brooklyn.
Holding the 2nd ranked offence heading into the night, the Nets can cut apart opposition defences with ease. It's on the other end of the floor where the question marks still remain, with the 25th ranked defence torched by the Magic through the first three quarters. Trailing by 19 at the end of the third, Brooklyn attempted a furious comeback but the deficit proved too much after giving up 103 through 36 minutes.
Ranked 22nd for 3-point makes per game (11.9), head coach Steve Clifford's squad were scorching hot against Brooklyn, pouring in 21 triples on 52.5 percent. Incredibly, the Magic's 21-for-40 mark from the outside actually provided a better percentage than the 22-for-44 they shot from 2-point range.
The 21 made threes were a season high for Orlando and only the second time they have topped 20 on the season.
Aaron Gordon's reminder
Tucked away on an Orlando squad that has been decimated by injuries, Aaron Gordon has flown under the radar.
In the spotlight of late due to trade rumours surfacing, Gordon put together arguably his best performance of the season with some sizzling hot shooting from the outside contributing to the outburst.
He had himself a night!- Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) March 20, 2021
Season-high 𝟑𝟴 points for @Double0AG. pic.twitter.com/WsI8LLZeeo
Tallying 38 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the outside, Gordon was just having one of those nights.
Providing the exclamation point on a big night, Gordon iced the game with a pull up triple to give Orlando a 117-108 lead with 1:39 left.
With no KD and James Harden subdued, Irving went into takeover mode.
Displaying his usual array of spectacular dribble moves and finishes around the basket, the 28-year-old put on a show to pour in a season-high 43 points.
11 of those points came in an individual run to end the first half, with the All-Star guard bringing the Nets to within two points at the break.
The man came to cook.- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 20, 2021
2️⃣4️⃣ points in the first for @KyrieIrving 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/BRup4BVfvC
While the Nets defence can be lamented at times, it's this type of performance from Irving that presents a not-so-subtle reminder that Brooklyn is going to be almost impossible to slow down in the postseason with a healthy roster.
It was the third 40-point game of the season for Irving and his second in four appearances since the All-Star break. After Harden dropped 40 points against the Indiana Pacers last game, Irving ensured Brooklyn teammates scored 40 points in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history.
A rare quiet night for James Harden
Plagued by foul trouble, Harden sat for the final 4:40 of the third quarter, a period in which Orlando extended their lead from 12 to 19.
Finishing with 19 points, four rebounds and nine assists, the former MVP was well down on his usual output. Shooting just 4-for-16 from the field and 2-for-9 from three, the bulk of those 19 points came at the free-throw line where he finished 9-for-12.
LOOK AT THIS CROSS-COURT OOP 😮@JHarden13 ➡️➡️➡️ @_claxton33 pic.twitter.com/KXkAWMTelv- Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) March 20, 2021
Despite the loss, Harden did deliver one of the highlights of the night on the above ridiculous full court lob to Nic Claxton.
Both Brooklyn and Orlando will have one night off. The Nets will return home to face the Washington Wizards while the Magic will hit the road to face Boston at TD Garden.
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