Flashback to Bradley's Dominance of Nelson
ORLANDO – Do you remember Jan. 23, 2012? Avery Bradley has pleasant dreams about that day. Jameer Nelson, on the other hand, has nightmares about it.
That was the day that the Boston Celtics limited the Orlando Magic to a franchise-low 56 points during an 87-56 annihilation at TD Garden. Bradley, then a seldom-used, second-year guard, was the hero of that game. Nelson, a former All-Star, was the goat.
Bradley embarrassed Nelson from start to finish that night. Bradley’s ball-hawking defense was a spectacle to watch, as he picked Nelson up with full-court pressure literally every time Orlando took the ball up the court.
Well, more like tried to take the ball up the court. Bradley’s defense was so disruptive that Orlando attempted only 65 shots in the game while committing 25 turnovers.
“His defense set the whole tone for the entire thing,” then-Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said after the demoralizing loss. “He took us out. We had a hard time getting the ball down and getting into offense.”
Even when the Magic did get into their offense, it was basically useless. Bradley’s defensive pressure spread to his teammates, and by the time Orlando made its first pass over half-court, the shot clock was already its enemy.
“When they catch it and once they get into their offense, there’s only like 10-11 seconds on the shot clock,” former Celtic Paul Pierce said after that game, “and as everybody knows around the NBA, it’s tough to run your offense with 10-11 seconds on the shot clock.”
This game was embarrassing for the Magic. They admitted as much after the final buzzer sounded. The man who took the brunt of the criticism was Nelson.
Nelson has been a very good player in this league for a long time. However, on that night, he had a hard time keeping his chin up. Nelson couldn’t handle the heat that Bradley was throwing at him. It got to a point where Nelson had to defer the ball handling duties to other members of his team, simply because he couldn’t get the Magic into their offense.
Orlando’s longtime point guard finished that contest with as many turnovers, five, as points. He averaged 10.6 field goal attempts per game that season, but on that night he was only able to muster up five shots.
That was a game that Nelson is still trying to forget. Bradley, on the other hand, must look back on that contest as his coming out party. Bradley’s performance in that game helped him realize that his defense could be a complete game-changer in the NBA.
“I just came out tonight and I wanted to get everybody else’s energy up and I felt like I did playing defense like that,” he said after his incredible defensive performance. “Paul (Pierce) came up to me and told me, ‘When you play defense like that it makes us play defense even harder.’”
Pierce is no longer in Boston, and Nelson is one of two Magic players who played in that game and are still with Orlando. The faces have changed, but that memories have not.
Nelson sees Bradley’s face, and all he can think about is Jan. 23, 2012.