Nelson sparkles in L.A.

January, 17, 2009
Kevin Durant, Thunder: 32 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 3-pointers on 14-for-21 shooting from the floor in a victory over the Pistons.
Deron Williams, Jazz: 27 points, 12 assists, 1 steal and 4 3-pointers in a victory over the Grizzlies.
Michael Redd, Bucks: 44 points, 2 steals and 6 3-pointers on 16-for-26 shooting from the floor and a perfect 6-for-6 from the line in a 129-122 victory over the Kings.
Rudy Gay, Grizzlies: 5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, zero 3-pointers and 4 fouls while shooting just 1-for-5 from the floor in a loss to Utah.
Rodney Stuckey, Pistons: 3 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal on 1-of-10 shooting from the floor in a loss to the Thunder.
Manu Ginobili, Spurs: 8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal and zero 3-pointers while shooting just 3-for-11 from the floor in a loss to the Sixers.

If you didn't believe in the Orlando Magic before Friday, you probably do now after their 109-103 victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant did his best to fend off the Magic, but even his triple-double (28 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists) couldn't stop Dwight Howard & Co. Howard had no problems maneuvering around Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and 3 blocks on the night. The key to the victory, however, was Jameer Nelson's 28 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 3-pointers. Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis get all the press, but it's been Jameer's progression that has helped take the Magic to the next level this season. Nelson is having a career year with averages of 16.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.9 3-pointers on the season.

Opponents haven't yet figured out how to defend this Magic team. They must converge on Howard in the paint, but they also can't leave the sharpshooters alone on the outside. That's a problem for defenses in its own right, but it's even worse when Nelson can consistently get into the lane, as he did against the Lakers on Friday. From there, defenses have a choice. They can either go with Nelson while leaving Howard, Turkoglu and Lewis open, or stay at home and give Nelson the open look. On Friday, the Lakers kept their defenders on the perimeter to cover Turk and Lewis while Nelson had his way with the defense. With that said, it's not hard to see why Jameer is having a career year. I know a lot of people don't believe in Nelson (just as they don't believe in Orlando), but everyone better start believing, because Jameer and the Magic are here to stay.

Under the boards

The red-hot Sixers took it to the Spurs on Friday thanks mostly to a fast pace pushed by Thaddeus Young, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller and Louis Williams. Philly has looked to get out on the fast break under Tony DiLeo, which makes sense given their youth and speed. It will be interesting to see how Elton Brand fits into this strategy when he returns (possibly today against the Knicks). Thaddeus had a huge night against the Spurs with 27 points and 5 rebounds but he's likely to take a back seat if Brand returns at 100 percent. … Nick Young cooled off a bit in a 96-89 victory over the Knicks but still scored 13 points with one 3-pointer in 36 minutes. Young won't help you in any categories other than points, 3-pointers and free-throw percentage, but he is a pure scorer, and he'll continue to get his points as long as he continues to receive ample minutes. … Figures. Just when you thought it was safe to drop Andray Blatche, he reminds you of why you picked him up in the first place. With 13 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals and a block in the victory over the Knicks, Blatche again proved that he has the upside to be worthy of a roster spot in most fantasy formats. Now if he can just work on that consistency problem. … Speaking of consistency, Charlie Villanueva got a start for the Bucks and responded with 25 points, 12 rebounds and a 3-pointer. I would recommend picking him up, but I don't trust him, and I'd rather go for someone else with upside like Jason Thompson or Rodney Carney. … Speaking of Thompson, he had a big night in the loss to the Bucks with 22 points, 11 rebounds and a block in 35 minutes. He's displayed fantastic per-minute numbers thus far in his rookie season, and he'll continue to earn 30-35 minutes per game as the Kings start to look to the future. Get him now, but be patient and enjoy the second-half production. … Andrew Bogut missed another game because of back spasms, and this is starting to get a little frustrating. What's worse is that there are no viable replacement candidates for Bogut in Milwaukee, as Dan Gadzuric simply cannot cut it on fantasy rosters. Owners will have to just hold onto Bogut and hope for the best. … Stephen Jackson (24 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals and 3 3-pointers) and Corey Maggette (24 points, 16 rebounds, 1 steal) look close to full strength again, and with Monta Ellis close to returning, it's time to start thinking about replacing Kelenna Azubuike on your fantasy roster. Azubuike started and scored 11 points with 2 3-pointers Friday, but he won't be able to continue his production if the Warriors are 100 percent healthy. … It's not really news anymore, but Andrea Bargnani had 20 points, 5 rebounds and 3 3-pointers in a loss to the Pacers on Friday. Some were worried that Jermaine O'Neal's return would cut into Bargnani's production, and it will, but clearly not as much as some may think. O'Neal played just 17 minutes off the bench, and the Raptors are likely to continue to give Bargnani his run. … With Delonte West out of action (for six weeks), the Cavs got production from many different areas in a victory over the Hornets. Sasha Pavlovic was deadly from downtown with 19 points on 4 3-pointers, and Wally Szczerbiak hit 4 3-pointers of his own finishing with 14 points. Daniel Gibson struggled to find his shot with just 6 points and 2 3-pointers on 2-of-10 shooting from the floor. Still, I like Pavlovic and Gibson to step up with West out, and both will be quality pickups if you need some help from behind the arc. … Kyle Lowry was looking like a great pickup earlier in the week, but he struggled Friday with just 4 points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor. His poor play earned him a spot on the bench, and Mike Conley saw the bulk of playing time. If you added Lowry last week, don't worry too much. He's consistently outplayed Conley, and one bad game should not cause him to lose the position battle. … With Nick Collison out (flu), Chris Wilcox was able to get loose for 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Pistons on Friday. Wilcox has seen his minutes dwindle, as Collison's solid play has pushed him to the bench. Expect Collison to regain the bulk of playing time upon his return, but watch this battle closely because Wilcox could have earned himself some extra playing time with his solid game Friday. … Don't sleep on Rodney Carney in Minnesota. After dropping 17 points with 3 3-pointers and a steal Friday, Carney is averaging 17.0 points, 2.8 3-pointers and a steal over his past four games. He's far surpassed Rashad McCants on the depth chart and is even earning more minutes than the struggling Mike Miller. Carney has some upside, so feel free to grab him and ride him while he's hot.



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