Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Second in a three-part series, I’m going to analyze this year’s playoff performances of several Orlando Magic players. These posts will be offense-centric, given that I will be writing up player evaluations next week, so I’ll reserve analysis on the defense of Dwight Howard – for example — until then.
Amidst all the hoopla after the Boston Celtics ended the Magic’s season in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals on Friday, Nelson’s performance in the playoffs turned out to be one of the bright spots for the men in blue.
There were some question marks surrounding Nelson as the 2010 NBA Playoffs got underway, though. But it was clear that Nelson was going to do everything in his power to exorcise his demons from the 2009 NBA Finals, in one way or the other, and play with a chip on his shoulder.
And that’s exactly what Nelson did.
|vs. Charlotte Bobcats||MP||PPG||RPG||APG||FG%||3P%|
An All-Star returns to form
In the first round of the postseason against the Charlotte Bobcats, Raymond Felton incurred Nelson’s wrath time and again. Nelson was dominant offensively against, statistically, the best defensive team in the NBA during the regular season. The main thing that Nelson did — it’s a simple, yet potent aspect of his game — was that he was being aggressive on offense. It showed, as Nelson scored a career playoff-high 32 points in two of the four games.
In the first game against the Bobcats, for instance, Nelson had his way with Felton head-to-head because he was consistently in attack mode, whether it was in transition, in the 1/5 pick and roll with Howard, in the 1/4 pick and roll with Rashard Lewis, you name it.
Nelson was able to use Game 1 as a launching pad to have an excellent series for the Magic. Plus, Orlando needed Nelson at his best offensively, given that Howard was dealing with foul troubles and, aside from Mickael Pietrus, there was minimal production coming from the bench.
|vs. Atlanta Hawks||MP||PPG||RPG||APG||FG%||3P%|
More of the same
Things were, more or less, the same for Nelson against the Atlanta Hawks, given that Mike Bibby had no chance defensively against him. However, the only reason why Nelson didn’t do more damage on offense was due to the fact that everyone for the Magic was practically hitting on all cylinders against the Hawks. Thus, Nelson didn’t have to do quite as much offensively but he still was able to make an impact.
The interesting thing is that, game-by-game, Nelson relied on a different play-type against Atlanta to generate a majority of his points. In Games 1 and 3, Nelson was able to score on offense in spot-up situations. In Games 2 and 4, Nelson got himself going against the Hawks by utilizing pick and rolls. It’s cliche, but Nelson took what the defense was giving him and usually made the right decision as each situation presented itself.
|vs. Boston Celtics||MP||PPG||RPG||APG||FG%||3P%|
Jekyll and Hyde act
Against the Boston Celtics, though, Nelson did some things that hurt somewhat Orlando.
The main issue for Nelson was that he wasn’t consistently being an aggressive player on offense as he was in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Granted, the Celtics’ defense is a different animal but when he put his mind to it, Nelson never really had trouble scoring against an excellent defender like Rajon Rondo. It should be noted that Rondo was dealing with back spams, by the way. In any case, this has been stated many times before but when Nelson goes, so go the Magic. It’s no secret that Orlando played well against Boston when Nelson was on his game (excluding Game 2), especially when taking into account Vince Carter‘s disappearances and Lewis’ struggles. When the Magic needed Nelson to step up, he generally did so.
Nelson is more than capable of shouldering much of the scoring load and he did in three of the six games against the Celtics but like Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie stated yesterday, it seems like sometimes Nelson is unaware of his own talent. For example, when head coach Stan Van Gundy made the decision to add staggered picks in the 1/5 pick and roll with Nelson and Howard, as long as he was aggressive, Nelson did whatever he wanted against Boston … especially in transition. It’s interesting then, especially in Game 6 when the season was on the line for Orlando, that Nelson didn’t play with the same type of urgency that he displayed in Games 4 and 5 when he was brilliant. Granted, Nelson was hampered with foul troubles in the first half but still.
It’s unlikely that the Magic would have achieved the impossible against the Celtics, but it is somewhat disappointing that Nelson didn’t do more in the aforementioned game because he could have done more. Despite Carter and Lewis not doing much offensively, Orlando was still able to win games when Nelson was actively looking to create for himself or others. There are a number of reasons why the Magic lost the series and the reality is this — Nelson’s lack of aggressiveness at times was one of them. There’s no denying that when he’s fully healthy, Nelson is an All-Star caliber point guard and sometimes more should be expected from a player of his talent.
At this point, the key to how good Nelson can be when he’s on the floor almost entirely hinges on his aggressiveness on offense. There’s no reason why Nelson can’t take on additional scoring and playmaking responsibilities for Orlando.
Nelson has proven in the past he can handle it.
Also, to be frank, there’s no reason why Nelson can’t be an All-Star next year. If Nelson can have his way against the Celtics, he can have his way against almost any team in the NBA. If Nelson can be consistently aggressive on offense, the sky is the limit for him.
Stay tuned for Part Three tomorrow.