EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Vince Carter had one rousing dunk in his final game at IZOD Center, gave the fans who cheered him for four-plus seasons one last reason to buzz.
Some of the same fans may make the trip down the Turnpike or Route 21 when the Nets play their home games at the Prudential Center in Newark for the next two seasons.
But now that Carter said his farewell there is only one player left of consequence in Nets’ history to say goodbye to Meadowlands. Richard Jefferson comes in at the end of the month with the Spurs and chances are he will enjoy the same results as Carter, Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Jason Collins and Brian Scalabrine have this season.
On a subpar night for Carter and Dwight Howard -- they combined for 24 points -- the Magic had an easy 97-87 victory that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy was upset afterward because his team didn’t jump on the Nets when they were down, but they were in control from midway through the first quarter.
The Nets made token runs because Orlando was careless with the ball, was too three-point happy and couldn’t convert free throws. Otherwise this would have been a real rout.
This game was similar to the Cleveland game Wednesday night when the Cavaliers jumped out to be a big first-quarter lead and the Nets kept trying to play catch-up.
“We’d always gotten off to real good starts,” interim coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “But that’s two games in a row we haven’t, and in kind of the same way: They got out and ran on us.”
The Nets would have started fast and maintain because the Magic just have too many weapons. They had had six players in double-digits and another with nine points and they truly did not play an overall sound game.
But things should be different tonight when the Nets play the first of five road games with a short bus ride to Madison Square Garden. One of the Nets’ six wins this season has come against the Knicks, who have played bad basketball lately so you can’t rule out another victory for New Jersey.
With 21 games remaining, the Nets are down to crunch time for the most embarrassing record in basketball. They need at least three wins to tie the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers’ mark of 9-73 and four to avoid it.
This is a game they could get, but there have been quite a few lately that have fallen under that category: The Wizards twice, Pistons twice, Sixers, Raptors without Chris Bosh and the Heat without Dwyane Wade.
It was improbable but a win -- or at least a better effort -- would have capped an important day for the franchise.
The Nets held an afternoon press conference to celebrate their move to Newark. Mayor Cory Booker stole the show as he talked about what it meant for Newark. But it’s significant for the Nets.
It’s a newer building, a better one and they plan to have a better product to put on the floor. It has to be better than this and it will be with a new coach, new owner and a bunch of new players with three draft picks and $23 million to use on free agency.
But you still feel for many of the players associated with this Nets’ team because they deserve better than this. Carter feels for this team and many of his old teammates.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “A lot of these guys on the team are my friends.”
But Carter helped hand his friends another embarrassing loss, their 11th straight in this building that will play host to only 10 more Nets’ games. The end is near, and mercifully for the Nets, the same can be said for their season.
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.).