On a night when the Orlando Magic sold out defensively to limit 3-point opportunities, Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie found the lanes to get the win.
The Nets’ Sixth Man of the Year candidate came off the bench to lead Brooklyn with 29 points, doing most of his damage off the bounce against an Orlando squad that was hell-bent on not getting burned at the 3-point stripe for a second straight game.
When the Nets came from 21 points down on Friday to beat the Magic in Orlando, Brooklyn drained 19 3-pointers, including huge ones from Dinwiddie and D’Angelo Russell in the final minute of play, to spark the comeback.
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The Magic were having no more of that in Wednesday’s rematch, aggressively — fanatically at times — closing out on potential 3-point shooters.
Dinwiddie, one of the best drivers and finishers among NBA guards, took advantage of Orlando’s perimeter aggression and found lanes to the basket all night long.
It’s what Dinwiddie does best anyway, as he entered play ranked 11th in the NBA with 14.1 drives per game. Among guards, he is 10th in the league, averaging 8.3 points per game off those drives, which he finishes at a solid 51.5 percent clip on 5.5 shot attempts per night.
Six of Dinwiddie’s 10 made baskets on Wednesday were in the restricted area as he found space to get to the rim repeatedly.
Those drives eventually forced the Magic to adjust and the Nets were able to find space to take 3s in the fourth quarter that wasn’t there earlier in the game.
Dinwiddie scored 14 of his game-high 29 points in the second quarter, going 5-for-5 from inside the arc in the period and hitting 8-of-9 shots from 2-point range on the night, even as he was just 2-for-8 from 3-point land.
It was Dinwiddie’s 10th game this season scoring at least 25 points after coming off the bench, tying the franchise record set by Bubbles Hawkins in 1976-77 … with a lot of season still remaining.
As for his candidacy as Sixth Man of the Year, Dinwiddie is second in the NBA among reserves, averaging 17.6 points per game. Only reigning Sixth Man winner Lou Williams of the LA Clippers scores more, hitting 18.5 points a night.
Dinwiddie’s 5.0 assists per game off the bench is second in the NBA among reserves behind J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks, who was at 5.6 per game in 38 bench appearances before being lost for the season earlier this month with a torn Achilles.
The Nets’ sixth man is already qualified for the award — with just four starts in Brooklyn’s first 49 games, he will meet the qualifying standard of making more than half of his appearances off the bench.
It’s not out of the question that Dinwiddie could get another crack at the Most Improved Player award, as well. He was a finalist last season, finishing third in the voting after increasing his scoring by 5.3 points per game in an additional 6.2 minutes per contest.
But this season, he’s upped his average by 5.0 points per game in slightly less playing time (28.5 minutes per game, down from 28.9 last season) and his shooting slash line is light years better than in 2017-18.
Dinwiddie is shooting 46.1/36.6/79.5 this season after putting up a 38.7/32.6/81.3 slash line last season.
It’s not difficult to make the case that he’s improved more this season than he did in 2017-18, nor is it hard to argue he’s been the most impactful reserve in the NBA in 2018-19.