Tonight the Raptors had a chance to knock the Magic out of the playoff chase but Toronto faltered in the fourth quarter and fell 103-96 to Orlando.
The player that sealed the win for Orlando was Jameer Nelson. Whenever Nelson was in the game for Orlando the pint sized point guard was able to trigger fastbreak points for his teammates and he was able to execute the Magic’s half court offense to perfection. At one point in the first quarter the Magic had already scored eight points off of dunks and it seemed like Toronto had no way to counter Orlando’s offense attack. Midway through the second quarter Toronto started to double Nelson whenever he had the ball and that temporarily worked to slow down Nelson but in the third quarter he exploded for 13 points. Nelson did a great job of making things happen tonight for himself and his teammates and he finished the game with 27 points, 7 dimes and 3 steals.
Following the game players from both teams were quick to sing the praises of Nelson. One player that was impressed by the play of Nelson tonight and was Charlie Villanueva who told reporters following the game that Nelson was, “a General of their team. He was the guy that ran the team real well and on top of it he made plays and he scored. He’s a tough player.”
Another Raptor that admires the gutsy play of Nelson is Morris Peterson. Following the game Peterson was quick to give praise to Nelson and told the reporters surrounding his locker that Nelson, “played well. He made some big shots for them. He ran the team. That guys is such a small guy but has such a big heart. Every time we play against him he comes ready to play and that’s what I respect about him.”
One of the players that really appreciates Nelson is Orlando’s stud forward Dwight Howard. Earlier in the season I had complained about Nelson’s lack of minutes because I felt that he helped his teammates get better scoring opportunities that Steve Francis was incapable of. While Francis looked to shoot first, Nelson’s an effective point guard because he looks to get his teammates involved before he looks for his own shot. Since Francis was dealt to New York Nelson has made me look like a genius. When Orlando rid themselves of a shoot first point guard in Francis and switched to Nelson they saw Howard’s game continue to improve as the forward was getting more touches on the offensive end. A bonus to the departure of Francis that I didn’t expect is that the Magic saw their season get revived as Orlando has now won their last 11 home games and are 9-1 in their last 10 games overall.
Following the game Dwight Howard was appreciative of the spark that Nelson provided to the team last night and told he Norma Wick that, “Jameer Nelson was on fire! He took the game over and that’s what we needed from the little guy tonight. Without him we would have lost this game tonight.”
It’s been great to see Nelson make things happen for himself and for the Magic this season. Looking at Nelson’s individual stats since Francis was moved it doesn’t look like Nelson’s having a huge impact on Orlando as he’s only averaging 15.9 points and 5.5 dimes per game (slightly higher than his season averages) but he’s doing the little things to help Orlando win games, something that Francis was either unable or unwilling to do during his time in Orlando.
Thu 04/13/06, 2:58 am EST