Jameer Nelson did whatever he wanted in the first half.
Split a double team and get into the lane for a layup? Done. Run the pick and roll to get a good look for himself or others? Done. Pull-up 3-pointers? Done.
Nelson, playing his first game since last Friday's loss to Boston, scored 18 points in the first half and controlled the tempo of the game. Nobody else on the Magic had more than four points as the defenses kept the score low and the Magic gave themselves a chance to win with their effort and defense.
The Clippers had to change their defense to bottle up this one offensive option the Magic seemed to have.
So they blitzed. Nelson had two bodies coming at him when he came around pick and rolls. When Orlando tried to get him the ball in better positions by having E'Twaun Moore run the point and moving Nelson off the ball into a quasi-J.J. Redick role coming off screens, the Clippers stuck a bigger defender like Matt Barnes on him and denied him the ball.
Predictably, Orlando's already poor offense got worse. The Clippers began forcing turnovers and the Magic's halftime advantage was quickly dissipated.
And then the Clippers were in control. Eventually the grit and effort from Rony Turiaf and the more consistent scoring from Eric Bledose and DeAndre Jordan took over. This game was not pretty but the better team (by record, at least) won out in the end with their execution and talent.
The Clippers got one of those grind-it-out wins that good teams get, 86-76, Wednesday at Amway Center.
Nelson failed to score in the second half, finishing with 18 points and dishing out four assists on 6-for-16 shooting. He missed all five of his shots in the second half.
Los Angeles was begging Orlando to have someone else beat them. The defense was extended out to try and stop Jameer Nelson in the early part of that third quarter. But E'Twaun Moore and Nikola Vucevic struggled to pick up that slack and keep the team scoring.
Moore scored seven points and made only 3 of his 16 field goal attempts. Similarly, Vucevic scored 15 points and grabbed 14 rebounds but made only 7 of his 20 shots. It was a frustrating night for those two as both had very makeable shots but they struggled dealing with the size going up against them. DeAndre Jordan and Ryan Hollins changed shots in the paint and Bledsoe proved to be a tough guy for Moore to crack.
These were two players that Orlando needed to step up and score to support Nelson and support the offense. When the valve for Nelson was shut off, the offense slowed to a trickle.
The Clippers took advantage early int he third quarter by forcing turnovers and getting out on the break. It put the Magic on their back foot for the entire second half. Orlando was playing catch up pretty quickly.
Then, as Jacque Vaughn pointed out after the game, Los Angeles began winning the 50/50 balls and hitting the offensive glass. When the Magic seemed about to start a run to make it a game, Turiaf would knock the ball out to a guard for an offensive rebound and the defense would have to reset. Even more discouraging, the Clippers had a few momentum killing makes at the shot clock buzzer after some really good defense.
If the Magic can think positively about anything in the last two games it was the defensive effort.
Orlando though could not overcome committing 18 turnovers, giving up 17 points off turnovers and conceding 13 offensive rebounds. In the end, it simply came down to making shots.
The Magic got some shots they wanted that did not fall. They shot 34.9 percent from the floor as a team. They could not put together enough points to stay in the game. The Clippers, like good teams do, found a way to win on a bad night.
The Magic continue to look for answers as they hope to snap what is now an 11-game skid.