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Magic going nowhere but still playing to win

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Veteran guard Arron Afflalo is not happy about the way the season is ending — with his team ranking among the worst in the NBA — but he still wants to close it the right way.

Afflalo played with a re-energized passion on Wednesday night, scoring 25 points, including seven in the last four minutes, to lead the Orlando Magic to a 115-111 victory over the playoff-bound Brooklyn Nets.

“It’s disappointing when your goal for the season is gone, but you still want to finish strong, show up mentally ready to play, and compete as hard as you can,” he said. “It’s important. You want to be professional.”

Afflalo hit 9 of 16 shots from the field and had five assists and four rebounds in his most productive outing since late February when he scored 32 points in a victory over the New York Knicks.

“It’s important that I really give the effort, to really show up and play these last five games,” he said. “You always have something to prove.”

The Magic (23-55) may be jockeying for position in the lottery, but they have won four of their last six home games. The Nets (43-35) were coming off a dramatic win in Miami on Tuesday night, but they trailed during most of Wednesday’s game against the energized Magic. They are currently in the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Guard Joe Johnson had 31 points for the Nets. Johnson scored 11 points in the final four minutes, but it was not enough.

The Nets were without starters Paul Pierce and Shaun Livingston, but they still had a chance to win at the end when Johnson took charge of the game. Magic center Kyle O’Quinn blocked a 3-pointer by Johnson with 9.9 seconds remaining that could have tied the score.

“We had different guys in different positions tonight,” Nets coach Jason Kidd said. “We executed welloffensively, but we didn’t executive well defensively. We’re learning each other again.”

Magic reserve guard E’Twaun Moore matched his season high with 17 points, including 14 in the second quarter when he hit four 3-point shots. Forward Tobias Harris had 16 points and eight rebounds. Guard Jameer Nelson had 14 points and hit four free throws in the final 14 seconds to help preserve the win.

It was Afflalo, though, who carried the biggest load.

“He was aggressive tonight,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “And it was good for our team. He had it really going for us, so that we established ourselves on the offensive end. And he was good defensively, too.”

Nets forward Mirza Teletovic scored 17 points — including five 3-pointers — and rookie Mason Plumlee had 16 points. Forward Kevin Garnett, still working his way back from an injury, had eight rebounds, six assists and five points in 17 minutes.

“We want to work on some things as we go down the stretch,” Garnett said. “We’ll use these last four games to get better.”

The Magic shot a season-high 55.8 percent (43 of 77) from the field and made 11 of 24 shots from 3-point range.

They led 83-78 going into the fourth quarter, withstanding four 3-point baskets in the third quarter by Teletovic. The Nets led only briefly in the second half, 73-72 on a 3-pointer by Teletovic and 76-75 on another 3-pointer by guard Deron Williams. They never led in the fourth quarter, tying it at 97.

Moore’s big second quarter helped turn a two-point deficit into a 55-43 Magic lead at halftime. Afflalo had 11 points in the first quarter and 15 by intermission.

The Magic led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter when they made four of their seven 3-point shots. Moore scored eight of his points in a span of three consecutive possessions.

Johnson had 12 points and Garnett had six rebounds in the first two quarters. Williams was scoreless and missed all six of his shots from the field in the first half. Teletovic made only 1 of 10 shots in the first two quarters.

NOTES: Nets F Paul Pierce (sore hip) and G Shaun Livingston (sore toe) missed Wednesday’s game after playing Tuesday in Brooklyn’s victory over the Miami Heat. Brooklyn F Kevin Garnett returned Wednesday after missing Tuesday’s game with back spasms. … Magic C Nikola Vucevic missed his third consecutive game with a sore Achilles tendon. The Magic are 3-17 this season without him. Earlier this season, the Magic beat the Nets by 21 points with Vucevic getting 19 points and 12 rebounds. … On Wednesday, Nick Anderson and Pat Williams became first inductees into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. Anderson was the team’s first-ever draft pick in 1989 and he played 10 seasons. Williams, now a team vice president, was the first general manager, and he was instrumental in Orlando getting an NBA franchise. … The Nets came into the game with the best record in the Eastern Conference since Jan. 1, but the loss dropped them to 33-14 since the start of the year.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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