As I wrote at the Heat Index last week when previewing the grudge match between the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat, the key to victory for the men in blue came down to one thing.
Pick and rolls.
Scouting the Heat’s loss against the New Orleans Hornets and witnessing Chris Paul butcher a defense in the pick and roll made me realize that the Magic could do the same thing (a fun exercise is to watch to compare both games and see how similar they are in terms of offensive execution).
Instead of Emeka Okafor on the receiving end of alley-oop passes from Paul, it’d be Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard. Instead of David West and Jason Smith on the receiving end of open looks for mid-range jumpers in pick and pops, it’d be Rashard Lewis and Brandon Bass. Head coach Stan Van Gundy is one of the most diligent coaches in the NBA when it comes to scouting opponents and he must have seen the same footage.
Even though Nelson isn’t as great as Paul, he’s good enough to break down Miami’s defense as long as he was aggressive offensively and attacked. And that’s what Nelson did on Wednesday. Orlando ran a steady diet of pick and rolls from the opening tip until the final buzzer and Nelson was the orchestrator of a systematic breakdown of one of the best defenses in the league.