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Teletovic helps Nets close in on No. 5 spot



NEW YORK — The mood inside the Brooklyn Nets’ locker room is one of excitement.

Perhaps nobody is looking forward to the postseason more than forward Mirza Teletovic, who figures to receive more playing time this time than the one minute he played during last year’s first round.

Teletovic’s action will be significant if he can produce as he did Sunday, when he scored 15 of his 20 points in the second half, helping the Nets earn a 97-88 victory over the Orlando Magic at Barclays Center. Brooklyn (44-36) inched closer to securing the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.

“I’m real excited because I didn’t play a lot (in the 2013 playoffs),” Teletovic said. “I felt like I could help and I didn’t. Now this is my second chance, and I’m going to try to get hold of it.”

Teletovic recorded his fifth game with at least 20 points, making seven of 12 shots in 29 minutes. He also became the fourth player in the NBA to have 10-plus games off the bench with at least four 3-pointers, doing so while averaging 19.3 minutes and hitting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc. Last season, he played 9.4 minutes and shot 34.3 percent from long distance.

Teletovic hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, including one in a 15-0 run that changed the direction of the game. The Nets trailed 59-55 with 6:58 remaining in the third, but less than 3 1/2 minutes later, they had an 11-point lead.

Rookie center Mason Plumlee continued his strong play of late by collecting 17 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes as the primary backup to Kevin Garnett. Guard Joe Johnson added 17 points for the Nets, who can clinch the fifth spot with either a Washington Wizards loss to the Miami Heat on Monday or a win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday.

The Nets will either meet the Toronto Raptors or the Chicago Bulls in an opening-round playoff series in which Brooklyn will not have home-court advantage. The Nets lost to Chicago in Game 7 at Brooklyn last year, when the home team trailed by 17 points at halftime before losing by six.

“Some nights are tough since it’s kind of set for us in the fifth seed,” Johnson said. “But we really have to take advantage of these games because you want to have some momentum going into the postseason.”

Point guard Deron Williams totaled 16 points, five assists and four steals for the Nets, who shot 46.6 percent (34-of-73) and made 12 of 29 3-pointers.

Forward Tobias Harris scored 18 points for Orlando, which is 4-36 on the road and dropped its ninth consecutive road game. Rookie guard Victor Oladipo added 14, getting 12 in the first half and a basket that preceded Brooklyn’s game-changing run.

“Anytime we lose, whether it’s on the road or at home, it bothers me,” Harris said. “But Brooklyn came out tonight ready to play. They obviously wanted that game, losing the last one at home. They were shooting the ball really well, and we just didn’t adjust and stop them.”

Even after the run that put Brooklyn in control, there were some anxious moments midway through the fourth.

The Magic (23-57) were within 87-81 following consecutive dunks from forward Andrew Nicholson and guard E’Twaun Moore with about 5 1/2 minutes left.

That forced the Nets to bring back Johnson and Williams along with Garnett. Brooklyn took a 90-81 lead on a corner 3-pointer by guard Marcus Thornton and went up by double digits on a pair of foul shots by Williams, who was fouled by Nicholson on a drive to the basket.

“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Johnson said of re-entering the game. “I’m willing to play and keep the chemistry going with the guys going into the postseason.”

Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd said, “I still understand that we’re playing for something. We’d like to get that fifth spot, but we have two games left against the Knicks and Cleveland. We have to continue to get healthy and get better each time we take the floor. That’s one reason why I brought those guys back late in the fourth to give them a different situation of time and score and being able to execute and get stops.”

After Orlando guard Doron Lamb hit a 3-pointer with 2:46 remaining that made it 92-84, Garnett split a pair at the line with 2:22 to go and then forced a turnover by center Dewayne Dedmon in the high post. That led to two foul shots by Teletovic with 1:54 remaining and a double-digit lead that the Nets never relinquished until a meaningless basket in the final seconds.

NOTES: The Nets were without Gs Shaun Livingston (sprained big toe) and Alan Anderson (abdominal). Neither injury is considered serious. The Nets are resting the two to keep them fresh for the postseason. … Before the game, Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd hinted that he might struggle playing all three of his centers during the playoffs, especially with Mason Plumlee’s emergence during the absence of Kevin Garnett in March. Earlier in the season, C Andray Blatche was the primary backup for Garnett, checking in midway through first quarters, but Sunday, Blatche did not make his first appearance until the second quarter. … Orlando was without G Jameer Nelson (groin), and the Magic announced that F Nikola Vucevic would sit for the remaining three games with a sore left Achilles. … Orlando’s final two games have significance. The Magic faces Chicago, which currently occupies the No. 3 spot in the East, and the Indiana Pacers, who have a slim lead on the Miami Heat for the top seed.

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

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