Nelson lifts Magic over Bobcats 92-83
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn had been eagerly awaiting the return of Nikola Vucevic to his starting lineup.
The 7-foot center showed why Wednesday night.
Vucevic had a double-double in the first half after missing the last four games with a sprained left ankle, Jameer Nelson had 12 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and the Orlando Magic snapped a six-game losing streak with a 92-83 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
Glen Davis added 17 points and 12 rebounds and Arron Afflalo chipped in with 16 points.
''We needed this one,'' Davis said. ''We needed it bad. We are a good team. We just all got to be healthy, you know what I mean? Look at what Nik did out there today. We've been missing that. It's been tough for us in the paint. He loosens everything up for me, most definitely. Him being a factor out there, people have to guard him and also he's going to get rebounds and help us with fast-break points.''
Orlando had 36 points in the paint and outrebounded the Bobcats 52-41. The Magic scored 17 points off second-chance points, many of those rebounds kept alive by Vucevic.
Vucevic, who was a game-time decision, finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season.
''Just overall you see rotation-wise, we were a little bit more concrete and had a little bit more flow to our rotations tonight,'' Vaughn said. ''We had favorable matchups at different parts of the game, and when he can match up against Al Jefferson that's pretty good for us.''
Nelson came up with a big 3-pointer late for the Magic, and also had seven rebounds and six assists while outplaying opposing point guard Kemba Walker.
The Magic led by four with just over a minute remaining in the game when Nelson knocked down a 26-footer from the top of the key to push the lead to 86-79. The Bobcats cut it back to five, but Nelson beat Walker on a drive for a layup to push the lead back to seven with 42 seconds left and essentially seal the victory.
Seven Orlando players finished in double figures in scoring.
''I think that is how we have to play,'' Vucevic said. ''We don't really have a go-to guy on this team that is going to score 20 a game. You got to have a different guy scoring.''
The Bobcats shot 37 percent in ending their two-game win streak.
Jefferson led Charlotte with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Walker, who had 31 points against Stephen Curry on Monday night, was held to 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting.
Orlando led 43-42 at the break behind a productive first half from Vucevic, who had 12 points and 11 rebounds while outplaying Jefferson inside.
After going 13 straight games without giving up 100 points, the Bobcats' second-ranked defense allowed 111 points to Golden State on Monday night in a four-point victory, prompting coach Steve Clifford to say tongue-in-cheek ''we shut them down.'' While the Bobcats limited the Magic to 42 percent shooting, they couldn't get their offense going and the ball wouldn't go down.
Charlotte's trio of Walker, Gerald Henderson and Jefferson were a combined 11 of 42 from the field.
''I think our team for the most part all year our effort has been exceptional. Tonight our readiness from our starters was poor,'' Clifford said. ''... We got outworked on the glass. We came in as the No. 1 rebounding team in the NBA and for whatever reason tonight didn't put the effort in, the physicality in, the things that are hard to do night in and night out. We didn't want to do it tonight and it cost us.''
The game featured a matchup of former Indiana Hoosiers with Cody Zeller taking on Victor Oladipo. Zeller finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and six rebounds, while Oladipo had 10 points on 5-of-10 shooting with four rebounds.
''It's always fun playing against Victor and we seem to bring out the best in each other,'' Zeller said.
NOTES: The Bobcats signed small forward Chris Douglas-Roberts earlier in the day, but he did not play. The team released James Southerland to make room on the roster. ... Afflalo has scored in double digits 21 times this year. ... Henderson has scored in double digits in 13 straight games. ... Walker has started 170 straight games for the Bobcats, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history.