Nets on fast pass to .500, visit Magic kingdom
The Brooklyn Nets haven't been over .500 all season and were 10 games under at one point.
They will try to get better than even when they play at the Orlando Magic on Friday night.
The Nets were 8-18 on Dec. 5 after they coughed up an 18-point lead after three quarters, losing 114-112 to visiting Oklahoma City as the Thunder's Paul George went off for 25 fourth-quarter points.
Brooklyn turned things around from there, running off seven consecutive victories to get back in the playoff chase and then crawling toward .500, which they finally reached Wednesday night with an improbable 145-142 overtime victory at Houston.
The Nets (23-23) have won six of their past eight games. They haven't been at .500 this late in the season since 2013-14.
"We've got to do it as a group and that's what the guys did. Contributions from everybody," coach Kenny Atkinson said of the win over Houston. "I don't want to have a parade or anything, but that's real big-time progress ... these guys want more."
Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie was the main hero Wednesday night -- draining a trio of 3-pointers in the final 26.2 seconds of regulation and giving Brooklyn the lead with a basket with 28 seconds remaining in overtime. The Nets had been down 11 with 2:29 to go in regulation.
Orlando (19-25) was coming off home wins over Boston and Houston, hinting at turning the corner after a four-game skid. But the Magic failed to keep momentum going, losing 120-115 in overtime to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
Orlando sizzled at the start, shooting 67.5 percent from the field in the first half, and then had to overcome an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to get to overtime. Center Nikola Vucevic missed key late shots in regulation and overtime.
"Listen, he's not going to make every shot," coach Steve Clifford said. "He's made so many, so many big shots and he's not going to make every one all year."
Vucevic leads the Magic in scoring (20.2 points per game) and rebounding (11.9).
On Wednesday, Orlando couldn't stop the NBA's leading rebounder, Andre Drummond, who had 11 offensive and 11 defensive rebounds. Now, the Magic will try to slow Brooklyn's 20-year-old center Jarrett Allen, who had a career-high 24 rebounds against the Rockets.
He became the fifth player in NBA history to have a 20-point, 24-rebound game before turning 21. He joined John Drew, Shaquille O'Neal, Dwight Howard and ... Drummond.
While the Nets are getting a variety of contributions, point guard D'Angelo Russell is driving the bus, averaging 21.1 points in January, increasing his season mark to 18.5 per game. He has six 30-point games this season.
"There's no fear," Atkinson said on NBA.com. "He believes in himself. He's got tremendous, tremendous confidence. He's playing really well right now."
For the Nets, forward Jared Dudley has missed three games with a strained left hamstring, although guard Shabazz Napier (hamstring) returned Wednesday night after sitting out one game and forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (adductor strain) was back after missing seven games.
Orlando has been without rookie backup center Mo Bamba for four games because of a sore left foot. Bamba practiced Tuesday, when Clifford targeted Friday's game as a potential return date.
This is the first of three meetings this season between the teams, all of which will happen in the span of 16 days. They meet next Wednesday in Brooklyn and on Feb. 2 in Orlando.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 17, 2019