Saturday, March 28, 2009

Now the royal flames of Pompeii bless all our senses

There are 4 minutes to go between the Magic and the Celtics. The Magic have the ball and, if we're being honest, we can admit we all know what's about to happen. The Magic will stand around the three point line while Dwight sets picks for every member of the Magic, 4 members of the Celtics, both head coaches, 6 ushers and a beer vendor. In the end, either we'll jack up a contested three, or Hedo will drive into 4 defenders and throw the ball up without ever looking at the basket. And I know this, and you know this. We know it because we've just watched it happen.

On 6 consecutive possessions.

And I shouldn't need to tell you that it happened again and again that night. The Magic scored 14 points in the 4th and only made 3 FGs the entire quarter. As in, one more FG than 2. That's embarrassing.

It got so bad that with under a minute to go, I got a text message from a friend of mine in Connecticut that simply read: "The Magic's offense blows," and I couldn't really disagree with it.

The Magic offense is a conundrum: an offense full of quality scorers who can't create a shot for themselves or anyone else. Rashard Lewis can play the post but seems afraid to be a go to post player in the 4th. Dwight Howard seems ready to be a go to scorer in the 4th from the post, but no one will give him the ball in the last 18 minutes of games. Hedo thinks he can take people off the dribble, but anyone who has watched him play this year could attest to that being untrue. Rafer Alston can't finish at the rim. Courtney Lee is a rookie.

In the end, the Magic don't have anyone who can, when defenses tighten, can take their man off the dribble and create instant offense, be it for himself or his teammates.

Except one.

This is where Jameer Nelson is missed the most.

Nelson had proven time and time again throughout his career that, when motivated to, he can penetrate on any point guard in the league. That ability to penetrate, combined with his incredibly high FG% on jumpshots made him an absolutely awesome force in the 4th quarter on ISO plays. Play off him, he'll hit 20 footers all day. Crowd him, and he'll walk up, down over and all into the paint like you weren't even there. And if he gets to the paint and help comes, the Magic have a small army of shooters eagerly waiting for the ball.

And there was also this guy in the middle named Howard waiting for rebounds/alley-oops.

That's all I could think about watching those last few minutes against Boston:

Watching as Derek Fisher repeatedly backed off Nelson, only for Jameer to bury jumper after jumper in his face.

Remembering how Nelson spent so much time going into the paint against the Raptors in last year's playoffs, you'd have thought he was investing in real estate there.

I thought about his clutch shots earlier in the season, his constant creating during the 4th quarters when the Magic's offense would bog down. How he'd create wide open looks for Lewis and Turkoglu. How he'd find Courtney Lee slashing for midrange jumpers. How when it got too bad, he'd just take it to the hole himself.

And then I thought: "Oh sweet God, we just turned the ball over again."

Get well soon, Jameer.


  1. Great observation Nickel.
    This is where Skip being new to the team hurts us. He is defering to Turk on those types of possessions whereas Nelson would have just kept the ball and waved Turk off if he wanted to.

    As the game slows down in the playoffs, SVG may need to take the ball out of Turk's hands if Turk gets into "feast or famine" mode.

  2. This was my exact thought at the Boston game, early this year Jameer was the guy who broke other teams runs for us with big baskets.

    His ability to knock down the high pressure three or get to rim and draw fouls will be sorely missed in the playoffs.

  3. Nice observation.

    Until Jameer is back I say give the ball to Dwight. D12 is our franchise player - let him take the responsibility. The least he'll do is get us some free throws. And I rather see Dwight shoot a pair of free throws (which seem to get better by the day) than Turk jacking up a crazy shots.


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