Stan Van Gundy Jameer Nelson back into the fire in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, playing the point guard 23 minutes in his first game action in four months.
The strategy didn’t exactly pay off.
Nelson looked good early, but struggled mightily in the second half and finished with six points on 3-9 shooting.
The Magic were winning by two when Van Gundy removed Rafer Alston after the first quarter of Game 1, but were outscored by 12 with Nelson in the game during the second quarter.
I think the Magic has a better chance of winning if Van Gundy sticks with Alston and Anthony Johnson in Game 2.
Nelson is clearly not in game shape, and his shot appears to have a hitch in it as he continues to recover from the shoulder injury.
Orlando looked lost at times with Nelson in the lineup. The ball movement decreased as Nelson continuously over-dribbled.
Nelson’s presence also took Hedo Turkgolu out of the game.
Turkgolu was having an average season until Nelson went down. After the injury, he assumed more ball-handling responsibility and improved his scoring. The Magic needs keep Hedo involved by using him as a facilitator.
Van Gundy has clashed with Johnson at times and could be eager to demote him, but the Magic has grown accustomed to playing with him off the bench. He has a good understanding of the game and almost never takes bad shots.
Nelson is by all accounts a great guy and a very coachable player. Along with Dwight Howard, he has been around from the beginning of Orlando’s journey from the depths of the NBA to the doorstep of a championship. He could be ready to see action as a reserve role in Game 3, it will take at least a week of practice before he can expected to be effective.
The best coaches coach with their heads, not their hearts. Stan Van Gundy should remember that heading into Game 2.
Stay tuned for thoughts, highlights, and reaction to tonight’s game.