Ncholson Shines in Opener
By John Denton
July 9, 2012
ORLANDO – Andrew Nicholson said that he isn’t the type to get overly nervous in big-game situations. Then, the Orlando Magic rookie went out and proved just that in his NBA debut on Monday.
Not only did Nicholson scored 24 points, grab 12 rebounds and block two shots in the opening game of the Airtran Airways Orlando Pro Summer League, he also had the winning points when the Magic put the ball in his hands in the final 30 seconds.
Nicholson, a 6-foot-9 power forward whom the Magic selected with the 19th pick of the June NBA Draft, converted a spinning post move as he was fouled to break an 86-all tie with 29.7 seconds remaining. Nicholson’s play helped the Magic avoid blowing a 17-point lead and defeat the Brooklyn Nets 92-88 in summer league action.
``I didn’t have a lot of nerves. I just see it as another game,’’ Nicholson said. ``My jump hook is my go-to move andd something that I’ve worked on. We drew that (tiebreaking) play up after the timeout. We wanted to isolate me in the post. The refs were calling the game really tight so we wanted to go right at them and get a foul.’’
Al Thornton scored 18 points, while rookie guard Tyshawn Taylor added 17 points for Brooklyn (0-1). Taylor, a rookie out of Kansas, led the Nets’ second-half charge with 14 points after intermission.
The AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League runs through Friday with four games each day at the Amway Center. The event is closed to the public because of space reasons, but it is being televised by NBA TV.
For Nicholson and fellow Magic rookie Kyle O’Quinn, Monday’s opener proved to be a rousing success. O’Quinn, the Magic’s second-round selection, had 16 points, four rebounds and two blocks as the Magic (1-0) built a 15-point lead in the first quarter and held on down the stretch.
Unlike Nicholson, O’Quinn – a Norfolk State product – admitted to being somewhat apprehensive about his first game with the Magic. However, those jitters weren’t necessarily evident as he made eight of 10 shots and displayed nice touch on mid-range jump shots.
``It’s a big learning curve. These last couple of days have been big for me with the physicality of the game and the things you have to learn,’’ O’Quinn said. ``I haven’t learned this many plays in so short a time in my life. But you got to learn quickly. Going out there with those veterans and those second-year guys like DeAndre Liggins and Justin Harper – you get a sense of comfort on the court. They tell you where to go. And you just go. And it’s great after that.’’
Harper put on a shooting display early in the game, scoring all 15 of his points in the first half. He made six of his first seven shots and two of three 3-pointers in the first half to lift the Magic to a 49-32 lead at the intermission.
``I’m just being aggressive and wanting to attack the basket and use my in-between game and not just settle for jump shots,’’ said Harper, who took just two shots in the second half. ``I want to be able to create for my teammates and not just be a spot-up shooter.’’
O’Quinn and Nicholson had a nice sequence just before the half to help the Magic build their big lead. O’Quinn followed up a miss by Maalik Wayns and scored as he was being fouled with 2.5 seconds left in the half. Then, after O’Quinn missed a free throw, Nicholson got the rebound and scored as the horn sounded.
``The two young guys, for their first game, came in and played with a lot of confidence,’’ Magic summer league coach Mark Price said. ``You can see the skill level that Andrew Nicholson has offensively and he hasn’t even figured things out yet offensively. And Kyle did a great job of scoring around the basket, rebounding and playing tough defense.’’
Price also had glowing praise for second-year Magic small forward DeAndre Liggins, who starred defensively against Nets standout guard MarShon Brooks. Brooks averaged 12.6 points a game last season for the Nets, but he had no luck scoring against the long-armed Liggins. He missed all 10 of his shots and made only three free throws.
Said Price: ``The player of the game was DeAndre. He had a tough player coming in in Brooks and ‘Dre did his job. We told him, `That’s your guy and we don’t want to have to be running all over the place.’ He took that challenge and I’m really pleased.’’
Nicholson displayed plenty of toughness inside, scoring from both low blocks during the game. The former physics major from St. Bonaventure also showed plenty of smarts by converting off head fake moves. His nifty up-and-under move past Brooklyn’s Jeff Foote resulted in a thunderous dunk early in the third quarter.
Nicholson said he slept just fine on Sunday night and nervousness never really affected him throughout the game. He is confident in his abilities and feels that he’s ready to make a quick adjustment from college to the NBA.
``I was thinking about (it being his first NBA game), but I don’t really get nervous easily. I just saw it as another basketball game,’’ Nicholson said. ``We’ve been practicing all week, so I was well-prepared. I got a lot of ticky-tack fouls, so I have to stay out of foul trouble. It’s a pretty big adjustment (to the NBA). You have to pick up things quicker and it’s a faster-paced game. You just have to pick it up as fast as you can.’’
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