Blatche leads Nets to 8th win in 9 games
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By ADRY TORRES
NEW YORK (AP) Part of Brooklyn's resurgence this month has been due, in large part, to the team trusting each other on both ends of the court and buying into first-year coach Jason Kidd's plan.
The Nets continued their winning ways Tuesday by sweeping a back-to-back set for the first time this season, beating the Orlando Magic 101-90 a night after routing the crosstown rival New York Knicks.
"It's a sign that we're showing consistency with what we're trying to do around here," said Nets forward Paul Pierce, who along with Joe Johnson, the other forward in Kidd's small lineup, chipped 13 points apiece.
"We're not only winning, but we're pretty convincingly turning it on in the third quarter with the defense, the way we're moving the ball, Pierce said. "That's what we want. That's all he wants out of us, night in, night out, a consistent effort. That's what we're trying to do especially in back-to-backs."
The Nets' 8-1 start in January is an NBA best after a disappointing 10-21 start to their second season in Brooklyn. The Nets improved to 2-6 in the second game of a back-to-back.
Once again, Kidd stuck with the same starting unit since Deron Williams went down with an ankle injury. Kidd's starting five of Pierce, Johnson, Kevin Garnett, Alan Anderson and Shaun Livingston improved to 6-0.
"For us coming off the back-to-back, we haven't had that much success - if any. This was more or less - no matter who the opponent was - it was about trying to get a win against a team we hadn't had back-to-back win," Kidd said.
Despite heavy snow that was expected to dump 8-14 inches on the city, there were barely any empty seats with 15,482 in attendance at Barclays Center.
New York City native Kyle O'Quinn led Orlando with 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench. E'Twaun Moore had 13 points for the Magic, who lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
Brooklyn built an early seven-point lead in the second quarter after Williams, who came off the bench for the second straight game, hit a 3-pointer to make it 31-24 with just 10:34 remaining. But the second unit started to lose that lead as the offense became stagnant.
Tied 38-all with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter, the Nets went on an 8-4 run to close out the first half up 46-42.
The Nets, who had been plagued by a lack of effort in the second half during the first two months of the season, buckled down in the beginning of the third quarter after allowing the Magic to hit 50 percent of their shots in the first half. Brooklyn came out focused on the defensive end as they had done during its previous seven victories and held the Magic to just 3 for 21 from the field.
"Well that was the difference in the game, the third quarter", Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Their approach, the way they came out. They hit us first and we didn't have an answer."
Orlando missed its first nine shots of the quarter and the Nets were able to capitalize, going on an 18-6 run to take a 64-48 lead with 5:09 left in the period. Aaron Afflalo then made the Magic's first bucket with 4:50 remaining.
"We stopped moving the ball. We stopped playing together. We stopped playing defense. We stopped doing everything. ... We just laid down," said Magic forward Glen Davis. "To be in the game and to have a chance to win the game and we just let it go like that, it's just really disappointing."
The 14 points scored by Orlando in that quarter were a Nets' opponent season low.
Williams had nine points and dished out nine assists in 28 minutes. It was his second game back after missing the last five due to a sprained ankle.
"I think our third quarters have been a lot better. That was a problem a lot in the first half of the season," Williams said. "We just came out and couldn't get going and got blown out the water. We've definitely been better since the start of the new year."
The Nets have allowed 91.7 points per game during their eight wins in January.
NOTES: Brooklyn has won four straight games over Southeast Division opponents after starting out the year 1-4. They've beaten Atlanta twice, Miami and now Orlando. . Williams' nine assists moved him past Stephon Marybury into eighth place on the team's all-time assist list. . Blatche has averaged 19.7 points during his last three games.
Updated January 22, 2014