Magic win in Nelson's return
J.J. Redick called Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on Monday morning to
wish him a Merry Christmas and instead got some basketball advice
from his college coach.
Redick put the message to work.
The former Blue Devils star had 20 points, Rashard Lewis scored 18 and the Orlando Magic blew past the Utah Jazz 104-99 on Monday night with some potent 3-point shooting.
Even though he hasn't enjoyed as much success as a professional as he did at Duke, Redick said his ex-coach inspired him to keep working hard.
"I'm not long. I'm not tall," said Redick, who shot 7 for 9 from the floor. "I got to kind of work."
Redick and Lewis led a 15-2 run late in the fourth quarter to pull away, highlighting a 9-for-21 night from beyond the arc for the Magic. Orlando won for the fourth time in five games.
Jameer Nelson returned for the Magic for the first time since he had surgery Nov. 18 to repair torn cartilage in his left knee. The All-Star point guard finished with two points in limited play.
Instead, it was Redick who led the charge.
"On top of the confidence, the guy is just so focused and tough," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He's on top of everything. He's a guy you can trust defensively, he plays with great energy offensively. He's certainly, heck, I don't know, I don't think he's the fastest guy we have in the sprint. But he runs harder and gets down the floor better than anybody we have."
Redick joked about his speed afterward.
"I don't know if Stan has seen the Iron Magic results," he said.
Paul Millsap had 23 points and Deron Williams added 18 for the Jazz, who put Dwight Howard in foul trouble early but couldn't slow Orlando's outside shooters.
"He has been balling," said Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, also a former Duke player. "For him, his confidence is growing like crazy. He knows what it takes now to finally play in this league and be effective."
Nelson's return became even more important when starter Jason Williams was ejected with 6:19 remaining in the third quarter after he was called for a foul on Deron Williams, exchanged words with referee Sean Corbin and was assessed two technicals.
But it was another Magic guard who provided the highlights.
After his desperation 3-pointer beat the shot-clock buzzer in the second quarter, Redick followed that up by stealing a pass by Boozer and drawing a foul on Mehmet Okur at the other end. Redick was hit hard on the play, skipping over a photographer and nearly bumping into Magic general manger Otis Smith standing against a corner railing.
Smith couldn't help but laugh and even gave Redick a high-five.
"We actually had one of those awkward Tiger Woods high-fives, where we high-fived, missed, then I looked and we high-fived and missed again," Redick joked. "So I owe Otis a high-five."
But Redick wasn't done.
He faked an alley-oop pass to Howard on the next play and got caught in mid-air before banking in a layup that capped the 11-0 run and put Orlando ahead 39-28. Later in the quarter, Redick tumbled over an advertisement table trying to save the ball.
The second half was close until Redick and Lewis got hot.
Utah was ahead 84-79 when Lewis hit a pair of 3-pointers, Redick chipped in another and added two layups to help stretch Orlando's lead to 94-86. The deficit was too much for the Jazz to overcome.
"We got lost defensively," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "That's tough to win."
As for the sharp-shooting Redick, he isn't ready to say he's found his rhythm so early in the season.
"I don't want to say I have figured things out," he said. "I believe in jinxes. I just want to roll with it right now."
NOTES: Van Gundy said during the team's morning shootaround that "nothing impresses me more in coaching" than Sloan's 22 years at the helm for the Utah Jazz. "I'm impressed. And then at the same time, I think he's nuts," Van Gundy joked. "For him to be able to do it as long as he has, I don't know if that's great mental toughness or if the guy's out of his mind." The 67-year-old Sloan is already the longest-tenured coach in NBA history and has signed on for a 23rd year with the Jazz. ... Magic SF Matt Barnes, who missed practice Sunday with a sore left hand, played 17 minutes and said the hand felt fine.