Orlando, FL (Sports Network) - Jameer Nelson scored 24 of his playoff career- high 32 points in the first half, as the Orlando Magic held off the Charlotte Bobcats, 98-89, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series at Amway Arena.
Nelson also dished out six assists for the second-seeded Magic, who won six straight games to end the regular season. Rashard Lewis donated 19 points and five rebounds for Orlando, which is appearing in the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.
"The last couple weeks, we really haven't played a real tough defensive team," said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. "Everything was pretty easy offensively. So we've got to adjust to a much more intense, much more physical defense, and I think it's good that we got out with the win."
Mickael Pietrus tallied 14 points off the bench, while Vince Carter had 12 points before fouling out late in the fourth. Dwight Howard grabbed seven rebounds and blocked nine shots despite scoring just five points.
Gerald Wallace finished with 25 points and 17 rebounds for the Bobcats, who are appearing in the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Raymond Felton chipped in 19 points in defeat.
"For us, we're a little nervous to start out the game, and they knew it," Wallace said. "They took advantage of it and came out and punched us in the mouth. They made shots, and we didn't to start the game off."
Charlotte held its breath at the end of the first half when starting guard Stephen Jackson went down. Jackson, who ended with 18 points and nine rebounds, collided with Wallace while going for a loose ball. Jackson limped to the locker room for X-rays, which came back negative. The diagnosis was a hyperextended left knee, and Jackson was able to play in the second half.
Game 2 of this best-of-seven series is set for Wednesday.
The Magic scored the first six points of the third to extend their lead to 65-43 on Lewis' trey. Seventh-seeded Charlotte, though, fought right back with an ensuing 17-4 run.
Wallace made five three throws during the burst, which Felton capped with a layup to make it 69-60 with over three minutes to go. The Bobcats were down 10, 76-66, heading to the fourth.
Trailing 81-71 with seven minutes to play in the fourth, the Bobcats went on a brief 8-2 flurry to make it a four-point contest. Felton ended the stretch with a trey and two free throws to cut the deficit to 83-79 with 3:51 to play.
Carter stopped the bleeding with a floater at the other end and Wallace made 1-of-2 from the foul line for a five-point game.
After each club missed a three-pointer, J.J. Redick was off the mark with a long jumper. But Howard grabbed the rebound and slammed to make it a seven- point contest with two minutes to go.
Larry Hughes made a long jumper at the opposite end of the floor, but Pietrus responded with a trey from the corner to make it 90-82. The Magic made all eight of their foul shots down the stretch to seal the victory.
Wallace's jumper had the Bobcats ahead 8-7 in the early going, but the Magic responded with a 17-4 run to go in front for good.
Nelson tallied nine points during the burst, which Carter capped with a free throw to make it 24-12 with three minutes to go. The score was 31-20 after 12 minutes.
Charlotte started the second on an 11-4 spurt to cut the gap to four. Wallace bookended the flurry with a slam and tip-in to make it 35-31 with 6:45 remaining.
Orlando, though, got hot from three-point range, making five in a row from beyond the arc. Pietrus had three of those and Redick hit the last for a 50-36 margin with over 3 1/2 minutes left.
Jackson's injury took place prior to Nelson hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it a 59-43 contest at the half.
Orlando took three of four from Charlotte in the regular season...Howard set a playoff team record with six blocked shots in the first quarter. He also set a club record with eight blocks in the first half...Orlando is appearing in the playoffs for the 12th time in franchise history...The Magic made 13-of-30 shots from beyond the arc, while the Bobcats made just 3-of-12 three- pointers...Charlotte outrebounded Orlando, 41-34.