TORONTO — Challenged by his coach to show more aggression, Jameer Nelson responded with a furious fourth quarter.
Nelson scored 12 of his 19 points in the final period, including 10 straight at one stretch, and the Orlando Magic beat the Toronto Raptors 106-94 on Saturday to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.
“As a player, sometimes you start to feel it and I started to feel it in the fourth quarter,” Nelson said. “I hit a couple of big shots and my teammates started looking for me. When you make shots, your confidence rises.”
Rashard Lewis added 27 points and 13 rebounds, and Dwight Howard added 19 points, 16 boards and eight blocks for the third-seeded Magic, who host Game 5 of this first-round series Monday night.
Chris Bosh set a career playoff-high with 39 points and added 15 rebounds for the Raptors, while T.J. Ford had 12 points and 13 assists.
Toronto must win Monday to stop Orlando from advancing beyond the first-round for the first time since 1996.
“It’s not over yet,” Ford said. “It’s the first one to four. We got ourselves in a hole and we just have to continue to stay positive.”
With Orlando down 76-73 after three quarters, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy took Nelson aside and told him to take more shots in the fourth.
“(Point guard) is a very difficult job,” Van Gundy said. “There’s such a balance between trying to get other guys involved and being aggressive in looking for your shot. It’s the hardest job in basketball, and he played great in the fourth quarter.”
Nelson started his run with a pull-up jumper, then followed Jason Kapono’s 3-pointer with one of his own, keeping the score tied. Another pull-up jumper and 3-pointer followed, and the Magic never trailed again.
“He made a couple of easy shots and then, by that time, I guess the basket looked a little bigger to him,” Bosh said.
Nelson, who played almost 35 minutes Saturday, had back spasms after Game 3 and had to lie down in the hallway as he walked to the locker room after the game. So how did he cure his sore muscles?
“I had Dwight walk on my back,” Nelson said, laughing.
In truth, ice and pills took care of the injury, which didn’t bother Nelson much anyway.
“It kind of came and went,” he said. “Obviously, when you’re making shots it’s going to go away.”
Toronto stayed close until back-to-back 3-pointers by Hedo Turkoglu and Lewis gave the Magic a 100-92 lead with 1:31 remaining.
Turkoglu had 18 points and nine rebounds. Keith Bogans scored 12 points for Orlando.
“It seems like any time they penetrate our defense, something good happens for them,” Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. “We’ve got to do a better job of stopping their dribble penetration.”
Lewis went 10-for-19 from the field. The Magic made four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and finished 11-for-29 from beyond the arc.
Van Gundy said Lewis was “outstanding.”
“He stepped up big today,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not just scoring, that was his best rebounding game, maybe of the year.”
Kapono and Anthony Parker each scored 12 for the Raptors, who were just 2-for-15 from 3-point range. Bosh finished 16-for-26.
“In the second half, we shot the 3 well, and that’s big for us,” Van Gundy said. “Obviously, it’s a big thing for them, too, and they didn’t shoot it well today.”
Orlando used big first quarters to win Games 1 and 2, while Toronto fed off the energy of its home crowd to build a big lead in the opening half of its Game 3 win. This time, however, neither team was able to pull away early.
Howard continued to dominate inside, posting 12 points and seven rebounds in the first as Orlando built a 29-21 lead. A three-point play by Jamario Moon and a breakaway dunk by Bosh helped Toronto trim the gap to 31-26 after 12 minutes.
Howard didn’t score again before the half, but Bosh followed a 10-point first with an 11-point second and the Raptors went 11-for-20 from the field, outscoring Orlando 27-17 to open a 53-48 edge at intermission.
Moon strained his groin when he slipped while trying to catch a fast-break pass from Ford in the third. Moon stayed in the game, clutching the area with his hand until the Magic called timeout and he was replaced by Jason Kapono. After taking him to the locker room for examination, the training staff declared Moon fit to return, but he did not play again.
Notes: Orlando got its first playoff road win since April 20, 2003,
at Detroit. … Howard finished 1-for-6 from the free throw line and has gone 9-for-23 since a 9-for-11 showing in Game 1. … Actress Mila Kunis attended the game.