Nelson leads charge as Magic match highest point total of season

PHILADELPHIA -- Jameer Nelson's homecoming was one for his hometown fans to remember.

Nelson rekindled fond memories for the locals of his first-team All-American days at nearby Saint Joseph's, with 22 points and 10 assists, and the Orlando Magic beat the Philadelphia 76ers 126-105 on Monday night.

"He's the Philly guy," center Dwight Howard said. "Comes back home and does it all."

All five starters scored at least 14 points for the Magic. They reached the 100-point mark late in the third quarter and kept the pressure on in the fourth to match their highest point total of the season.

Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis each scored 19 points, and Howard had 14. Orlando hit five 3-pointers in the third and shot 69 percent to turn a seven-point lead at halftime into a total rout.

Nelson, who needed 650 tickets for the game, made eight of 11 shots with only one turnover.

"Dwight always tells me that if I'm aggressive, it helps him," Nelson said. "And it helps to open things up for the other guys."

Howard seemed to have more fun on the bench than in the game. Instead of resting in the fourth, he had the reserves up and jumping around and celebrating baskets. With his uniform top off, he was the first Magic reserve off the bench going into timeouts to greet the second and third-teamers who extended the lead.

The 76ers are just waiting for this season to end. They were competitive for most of the first half until completely falling apart after the break.

Lewis and Carter hit 3s to stretch Orlando's lead to 12 points and the Magic kept rolling from there. Nelson dished his 10th assist to Lewis for another 3-pointer and the Magic were cruising, 94-79.

Nelson swished a pull-up 3-pointer with 1:02 left to give the Magic 102 points through three quarters. Fans started fleeing for the exits and the few that remained chanted "Fire Eddie!"

They had their pick of Eds: 76ers coach Eddie Jordan or team president Ed Stefanski. Both are responsible for this debacle of a season.

In turn, Jordan picked his target, taking a not-so-veiled swipe at Andre Iguodala for not stepping up as a team leader as the season disintegrates.

"We lost the passion to compete," Jordan said. "We saw some poor body language and there were a couple of timeouts where we addressed it. I wasn't going to have it. I addressed it a couple of times, I addressed just now [postgame].

"It's leadership, or lack thereof. It's contagious where one guy's miserable and it's contagious throughout the team. Someone has to stand up and try and rally the troops, your teammates."

Jordan added there is no "internal leadership."

There's also no regular rotation, set offense or 3-point shooting.

Iguodala refused to fire back at his beleaguered coach.

"You start to play the blame game and it really leads to a dead end, it really doesn't go anywhere," he said. "I'll just go out there and keep doing what I've been doing my whole career, which is playing basketball the right way."

Jrue Holiday scored a career-high 23 points for the Sixers. Iguodala scored 19 and Thaddeus Young, starting for Elton Brand, had 17. The Sixers played without Brand (right Achilles tendinitis) and Allen Iverson (personal).

No one counted on the Sixers making a run at an NBA title this year. But after making the playoffs two straight years, more was expected than waiting around for the draft lottery.

"It's kind of a few things," Iguodala said. "Losing Andre Miller was definitely one of those things. Bringing in a new system could be one of those things. Changing the style up could be another. I don't think we need to have excuses every night why we're losing."

Howard, who leads the NBA in rebounding, didn't grab his first one until the second quarter. His opportunities were sparse for most of the first half.

The first half resembled an NBA All-Star Game: run, shoot, defender makes halfhearted attempt to defend. Each team cracked 70 percent shooting in the first quarter. (The Magic were 15 of 21; 76ers 14 of 20).

Nelson was sensational in leading Orlando to a 68-61 lead at the break. He scored 17 points, had six assists and flawlessly ran the offense. Coach Stan Van Gundy praised Nelson before the game for his improvement in all areas, notably a more aggressive, attacking style at the basket.

Shooting cooled off for both teams in the second quarter -- except for Nelson. He made all three baskets, including a 3-pointer.

"He just looks like he is back to where he was early on last season," Van Gundy said. "I think everything is coming together."

Game notes
Brand did not play on "Elton Brand Night." All Brand merchandise was 25 percent off. Brand will not travel with the team to Atlanta. ... The Magic scored 120 points against the 76ers on Oct. 28.

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