Nelson, Magic Cruise Past Slumping Wolves
Orlando 107, Minnesota 87
ORLANDO, Fla., Dec. 30 (Ticker) -- Jameer Nelson set the pace early and the rest of his teammates followed his lead.
Nelson scored a season-high 25 points as the hot-shooting Orlando Magic posted a 107-87 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have lost seven of their last nine games.
The Magic's lead could have been bigger but the Wolves had a 14-2 run in the quarter, sparked by Kevin Garnett's six points and reserve guard Richie Frahm's five.
"Jameer Nelson had a monster game and was a difference maker for them," Minnesota's Wally Szczerbiak said. "It felt like we were getting them in check and when he came in the game he just opened it up and exploded on us. Their whole team is playing a lot better, better than their record."
A jumper by Marko Jaric with 5:47 remaining in the third quarter gave the Timberwolves a 67-66 lead. However, the Magic responded with an 11-0 surge, capped by Nelson's fast-break basket with 2:19 left in the period. In the run, Orlando connected on 7-of-8 free throws.
"The biggest thing we've got to learn is that when teams make their push, we've got to push back," said Orlando center Dwight Howard, who recorded his 20th double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds. "Jameer played awesome on both ends of the floor."
Howard's three-point play put Orlando ahead, 89-75, with 8:31 remaining in the contest.
"Howard plays well and falls right into the footsteps of those who have made quantum leaps in maturing as a young men," Garnett said.
Orlando scored at least 100 points and shot better than 50 percent or better for the third consecutive game, a far cry from last Friday when the Magic absorbed a 16-point beating at home against the Los Angeles Lakers for their fourth consecutive loss and third in a row at home.
"Sometimes the light goes on a little bit later," Magic coach Brian Hill said. "Maybe this is one of those situations where we realize that if we play together and share the basketball and play good defense and force some turnovers and get out and run, we can be pretty good."
Steve Francis, who sat out the entire fourth period, finished with 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Grant Hill added 17 and seven rebounds for the Magic.
Orlando held a 40-13 advantage in bench points en route to beating Minnesota at home for the 13th time in the last 17 meetings.
"They had great bench play from (Hedo) Turkoglu and Nelson and are really deep," Szczerbiak said. "That (bench play) was the difference along with our turnovers, which were inexcusable."
Garnett had 29 points and 11 rebounds to pace the Timberwolves. Szczerbiak added 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting.
Although Garnett called his play reckless at times, Howard praised the player he has revered growing up.
"He (Garnett) is an awesome guy," Howard said. "I really like what he does on the floor. The one thing I saw from him is when they were down, he did everything to bring his team back. He blocked shots, dove for all the loose balls and hit jumpers."