Jameer Nelson sits entire 4th during loss to Mavericks

Veteran Jameer Nelson watched the entire fourth quarter of Saturday's loss from the bench.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- While Victor Oladipo was slipping on drives to the basket on more than one occasion, Jameer Nelson watched from the bench and could have wondered if the grip he has held for almost a decade as the Orlando Magic's starting point guard was slipping away.

Neither Oladipo nor Nelson felt much like talking after the 108-100 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. But the rookie who was responsible for nine of the Magic's 19 turnovers made an effort to answer reporters' questions, though he was clearly down on himself. The veteran on one of the NBA's youngest teams made his way out of the locker room in an even less elaborative mood.

"I'll get you all on Monday. I apologize," Nelson said.

Nelson had 15 points, two assists and only one turnover through three quarters. Those aren't the kind of statistics which would ordinarily warrant a seat for the final 12 minutes.

And it wasn't as if the first-round pick out of Indiana was the only player on either team to struggle during a quarter which could be charitably described as ragged. The Mavericks managed just a basket by Samuel Dalembert over a stretch of more than five minutes. But all the Magic could get during the same time was a hook shot from Nikola Vucevic and three free throws, including one from Oladipo.

"We just weren't making shots," said Oladipo, who finished with 10 points and six assists. "It seemed like the ball was bouncing their way. It was their night."

Coach Jacque Vaughn left no doubt that Nelson's absence was anything but injury-related.

"No, he was not hurt. It was more so a coaching decision," Vaughn said. "At the time, we were playing small. And it gave us a chance to keep Vic in the game for the fourth quarter."

In the fourth quarter Wednesday night of the Magic's victory over Milwaukee, Nelson and Oladipo were on the floor for almost the exact same amount of time. But the Bucks were forced to go small, and the Magic countered by doing likewise. The Mavericks have arguably the player with the best shooting range in the history of the game for a 7-footer in Dirk Nowitzki.

There were several moments during Oladipo's first nine regular-season games where his feet appeared to be going too fast to keep up with the rest of him. But this was the first time where his feet slid out from under him in almost comical fashion.

Not that anyone was laughing about it afterward.

"(I) felt like was getting hit a little bit," Oladipo said. "But the refs thought otherwise."

To pin this loss solely on Oladipo's sloppiness or Nelson's absence would be a stretch. For the third game in a row, the Magic were dreadful on defense in the first quarter. Even after their shooting woes in the fourth quarter, the Mavericks still ended up shooting 51.2 percent from the floor.

For the Magic to be within four points of the lead with six minutes to go qualified as a minor miracle.

"We could never really take over the game," Vucevic said. "They kind of controlled the game from the start."

Vaughn is positive he has a budding star on his hands in Oladipo. The question now is whether he has a budding point guard controversy to go with it.

"He will compete and learn and grow from it," Vaughn said. "That's what he needs to learn to get out of it from being in the fourth quarter. There's no simulation for that in practice."

Nelson was a significant reason why Vucevic became one of the most improved players in the league last season. He handled the issue of his teammate's absence as diplomatically as possible.

"It's a coach's decision," he said.

A decision which could linger for weeks to come.

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.

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