Avoiding a season sweep to one of the worst teams in the NBA, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Sacramento Kings by the score of 106-102. This was a tightly-contested game, especially in the second half when the Magic and Kings traded leads with each other with regularity. But a three-pointer from Hedo Turkoglu with 40.5 seconds left in regulation, which gave Orlando a five-point lead, was essentially the icebreaker. However, that doesn’t mean that the Magic didn’t make things interesting until the end because they did. On the ensuing possession, DeMarcus Cousins was able to make a trip to the free-throw line after he inadvertently tripped on his own teammate, Marcus Thornton, which coerced the officials to call a foul, thinking one of the players for Orlando forced the contact. As such, Cousins was able to make two free-throws and cut the Magic’s lead to three points — a one possession game. Foolishly, Sacramento fouled Jason Richardson as he attacked the basket. Richardson, an 81 percent free-throw shooter, missed both free-throws to give the Kings another chance at tying things up. Unfortunately for Sacramento, Luther Head missed the game-tying three-point attempt and Orlando was able to escape with a victory. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Leading the way was Jameer Nelson with a spectacular performance, finishing with 26 points in 29 minutes of playing time. Richardson contributed with 19 points. Dwight Howard returned from suspension and dropped 16 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks. Turkoglu had 13 points, while Gilbert Arenas had 12 points.
The player that fueled Orlando’s win was Nelson.
The game was uneventful for most of the night, even though Thornton and Cousins were able to excite the home crowd with their inspired play. Especially Cousins, playing fearless basketball against Howard, one-upping him on a number of occasions, and displaying the talent that made him a top-five pick in the 2010 NBA Draft with the hopes of being a franchise cornerstone alongside Tyreke Evans. That was one of the bright spots for Sacramento, witnessing a rookie that took it to Howard on offense and didn’t back down.
Nelson, though, rained on the parade.
In the fourth quarter and with the game in the balance, Nelson took over for the Magic and put them on his back. Granted, Nelson had a distinct advantage, given that Head was defending him. Thing is, these are the type of matchups that Nelson should be able to exploit at will. More often than not, Nelson doesn’t because he settles offensively and tries too hard to get his teammates involved. That’s fine when the situation warrants it but given that Orlando needs to find someone that is willing to be a consistent secondary scorer to Howard and knowing that Nelson is capable of being that guy, it becomes frustrating to watch. Nelson destroying the Kings was a sight for sore eyes, but the problem is that he doesn’t do things like this consistently enough.
[5:33] Nelson makes 20-foot jumpshot
[4:52] Nelson makes 21-foot jumpshot
[4:22] Nelson makes free throw 1 of 2
[4:22] Nelson makes free throw 2 of 2
[3:49] Nelson makes 6-foot floater
[2:00] Nelson makes layup
[1:19] Nelson makes 18-foot jumpshot
Nelson butchered Sacramento in the 1/5 pick and roll with Howard. On three different possessions, Nelson was able to exploit the Kings’ woeful pick and roll coverages and score in three unique ways on separate sequences — on a floater, layup, and jumper. Nelson had his full arsenal going for him on offense and there wasn’t much Sacramento could do about it. The fact that Nelson scored 26 points in 29 minutes of playing time speaks more to the potential that is there for him offensively, regardless that he was playing against one of the worst defenses in the league. That’s not the point. Nelson is at his best when he’s aggressive offensively and no matter what, head coach Stan Van Gundy needs to somehow drill it in his head that the Magic need the 2009 version consistently.
In 2009, Nelson stepped up as the second option for Orlando because that’s what was needed from him at the time. Circumstances changed last season when the Magic acquired Vince Carter because he was expected to be the secondary scorer alongside Howard, with Nelson becoming more of a third option. Nevertheless, even with Richardson on board, Nelson needs to usurp his role as the second option. That’s the only way that Orlando will be able to get far in the playoffs because when Nelson is aggressive, that makes life difficult for opposing teams. Plus, it makes the Magic much more dangerous. For whatever reason, it almost seems like Nelson doesn’t fully grasp his importance to Orlando on offense.
Because if Nelson was aware, performances like these would be commonplace.