Andrew Nicholson Giving Magic Offensive Boost

Andrew Nicholson

By John Denton
Dec. 10, 2013

CHARLOTTE – Down two of their top scorers and in need of some offensive firepower, the Orlando Magic have turned to power forward Andrew Nicholson recently to do what he does best – put the ball in the basket.

And he’s getting more of those chances to score, ironically enough, because he is more willing to do other things this season.

Nicholson has become a drastically better rebounder and defender this season, something that has helped him earn the trust of Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn. Meanwhile, he’s continued to be a solid scorer for the Magic both from the low post and the 3-point line.

Nicholson had his finest game of the season on Monday in Memphis. He jump-started a second-half rally for Orlando by scoring 13 of his 19 points in the third quarter. He also tied a season-high with 11 rebounds against the Grizzlies to round out the all-around performance.

``Andrew was huge, not only making shots for us but also rebounding the basketball,’’ said Vaughn, whose Magic (6-15) face the Bobcats (10-11) in Charlotte on Wednesday. ``I think you’ve seen his defense improve to where he’s been able to guard multiple guys whether it was (Memphis’ John) Leuer or being switched off onto (Zach) Randolph. So at different points in the game he was able to help us out there.’’

The Magic (6-15) have been in search of some inside production of late what with center Nikola Vucevic out with a sprained ankle and forward Tobias Harris being unable to play because of lingering pain from a high ankle sprain. Vucevic has missed the past four games after accidentally stepping on the foot of a courtside cameraman.

Nicholson, who turned 24 years old on Sunday, gave the Magic a few lift on Monday with the variety of his offensive game. He made eight of 12 shots, including two corner 3-pointers. And he also snatched a missed shot and converted the layup as he was fouled for a 3-point play.

``I was just trying to stay aggressive. Coach ran a couple of play for me and the shots were going down for me. They were the shots that I normally make, so I just kept taking them.’’

Monday’s game was emblematic of Nicholson’s efficiency this season. He’s second on the team in field goal percentage (52.1 percent) and third in 3-point percentage (36.8 percent) after adding the long-range shot to his arsenal this season. He’s shooting 63.6 percent on point-blank shots at the rim, while also converting 61.5 percent from the left block and 66.6 percent from the left block. As for his 3s, he’s made six from the left corner and seven from the right corner.

Nicholson added nearly 15 pounds over the summer and that added muscle has helped him inside defensively and on the glass. According to NBA.com, he is grabbing 58 percent of all rebound chances available to him and 35.7 percent of contested rebounds – numbers that stack up with some of the better rebounders in the league. Also, he’s grabbed 11 rebounds in a game three times this season.

Vaughn has made it abundantly clear to Nicholson that he must rebound if he’s going to play major minutes. ``I’m pretty comfortable offensively because that’s one of my strong points,’’ he said. I’m just trying to provide an offensive lift and keep rebounding too to help us on that end.’’

The Magic will enter Wednesday’s conclusion to their six-game, 12-day road trip riding a six-game losing streak. Shooting woes the past two games and defensive issues early in the trip have tested the resolve of the Magic, but Nicholson knows that Orlando still has plenty of fight left in it.

``We know that it’s a long season and we have to stay together but we’re the only guys that we’ve got. As a team, we’re collectively doing a good job of keeping our heads up and moving on to the next game,’’ Nicholson said. ``We’re still going in the right direction and pulling together. Yeah, we are on a losing streak, but at the end of the day it is a long season. We just need to focus on the next game and try to get a win."