BROOKLYN, N.Y. — No two players on the Orlando Magic roster receive more criticism than Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu. Fans occasionally fault Nelson because of his defensive shortcomings and because he's not a pass-first point guard. The disapproval of Turkoglu typically centers on his inconsistency and his lack of rebounding.
On Sunday, however, their teammates needed them.
The Magic felt the ripple effects of Nelson's and Turkoglu's injuries throughout an 82-74 loss to the Brooklyn Nets at brand-new Barclays Center. Their absences stunted an offense that already had little margin for error and forced coach Jacque Vaughn to give extended minutes to inexperienced replacements.
"Those are two veterans who have played basketball a long time," Vaughn said. "It's putting added pressure on the other guys."
Without Nelson and Turkoglu to space the floor, opposing defenses find it easier to swarm power forward Glen Davis, who scored 19 points but went just 9 of 21 from the field and had a pair of shots blocked.
Without Nelson, second-year guard E'Twaun Moore played 40 minutes for the second game in a row.
Without Turkoglu, rookie Maurice Harkless, whom coaches would prefer to bring along slowly, needed to play almost 11 minutes.
Orlando lost its fourth consecutive game.
The Magic trailed by as many as 20 points early in the second quarter, but they outplayed the Nets (3-2) the rest of the way and gave the Nets a scare down the stretch.
"There's been a few instances this year so far — and it's still early in the season — where we've fought hard," swingman Arron Afflalo said. "But now we have to kind of put it together. It's one thing to fight hard, but you've got to fight for the win, too."
The Magic (2-4) entered the season with diminished expectations, even with Nelson and Turkoglu penciled into the lineup.
Nelson strained muscles in his groin and hamstring during the season-opener and hasn't played since. Turkoglu broke a bone in his left hand during the season-opener and will miss at least three more weeks.
Vaughn attempted to enliven the offense Sunday by starting J.J. Redick at shooting guard, moving Afflalo to small forward and sitting Josh McRoberts.
Redick scored 10 points on just 3-of-12 shooting and dished a game-high nine assists.
In a sign that Nelson's and Turkoglu's injuries have sapped the team of its depth, the Magic's bench managed just four points total.
The Magic crept back into the game, anyway.
A layup by Davis off a pass from Redick cut the Nets' lead to 75-70 with 2:06 left in regulation.
On the ensuing possession, Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams sank a long jumper.
When Davis hit another layup with 1:15 to go, Brook Lopez hit a short jumper to put the game out of reach.
"We got up by 20 and then we started to relax a little bit," Nets coach Avery Johnson said. "We haven't been playing with a lead. We have to do a better job, but give the Magic credit. They are a scrappy team."
Vaughn lauded his team for its effort, especially after it had lost Friday night to the Nets 107-68 at Amway Center.
"We were a different team out there," Davis said.
"But, at the same time, we can look at it and try to find something out of it, but we didn't win. We've got to put a whole game together. We're not a team of superstars and guys that can score 40. We have to use each other."
That applies more than ever with Nelson and Turkoglu injured.
"We're missing them, but at the same time, we're growing as a team together," Vaughn said. "We're still learning, and it's given guys an opportunity."
Vaughn expects the younger players, who have received a chance to play, will be better-suited to perform once Nelson and Turkoglu return.
Still, those two veterans can't return quickly enough.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun