Johnson had a season-best 25 points in place of Nelson, and the Orlando Magic routed the Los Angeles Clippers 125-96 on Wednesday night. Johnson was quick to point out he won't score big every game, especially against tougher competition.
"Definitely not every night," Johnson said, laughing. "I'm not looking to produce like that night in and night out. If I did, I would be a starter in this league."
Johnson was cool and crisp in the Magic's first game since Nelson tore the labrum in his right shoulder, doubling his regular-season career high with six 3-pointers. He was 6-for-8 from the beyond the arc and the Magic made 16 3-pointers.
"We just ran into a team that was hungry," Clippers guard Baron Davis said. "They are just a great team. They do what they are supposed to. They play the same way (without Nelson)."
Al Thornton had 27 points, and Eric Gordon added 14 for the Clippers, losers of seven in a row and 21 of their last 23 games. They could do little to stop Johnson, who nearly matched his regular-season career high of 27 points against Washington on Jan. 18, 2006, when he was with Indiana.
The Magic (37-11) swapped their starting lineup to cope with Nelson's loss, starting Johnson in place of Nelson and having shooting guard Courtney Lee come off the bench as his backup. Mickael Pietrus started in place of Lee.
Los Angeles provided an easy test run.
"The Clippers were allowing us wide-open jumpers," Johnson said. "It's just a matter of stepping into them. ... It made it very easy for myself to step into wide-open shots and knock them down."
Clanking shots and scurrying on defense, Los Angeles was outmatched and outplayed. The Clippers (10-38), tied with Washington for the NBA's worst record, clogged the inside trying to shutdown Dwight Howard and take advantage of the Magic's point guard shortage.
They just didn't account for Johnson -- no one did.
The 34-year-old veteran gave the Magic an immediate boost. He made four 3-pointers in the first quarter, including one that popped up-and-in that had even coach Stan Van Gundy smiling. Johnson was 4-of-5 shooting in the quarter to give the Magic a 34-22 lead after the opening period.
"I don't think he's going to have many shooting nights like that, but he'll shoot it well," Van Gundy said. "I'm surprised anybody has that kind of night, but I'm not surprised he can make shots."
His sixth 3-pointer was part of 10-0 run that lifted the Magic to a 72-48 halftime lead. By the second half, he was driving and dishing and had the Magic on cruise control as they cleared the bench, taking a 104-71 lead into the fourth.
"He was knocking down shots tonight," Thornton said. "I haven't seen him shoot like that in a while."
The Magic, who have been active in trade talks and scouring the free-agent market to fill the void left by Nelson, will have tougher tests ahead than the Clippers. And Johnson's stellar play might not make decisions for Orlando -- or Nelson -- any easier.
Nelson was injured in Orlando's 105-95 loss to the Mavericks on Monday night. He reiterated Wednesday that he will decide over the next few weeks whether he will have season-ending surgery or hold off and attempt rehabilitation.
- Orlando guard Rashard Lewis was selected to the 3-point shooting contest Wednesday. He will compete against Toronto's Jason Kapono, Indiana's Danny Granger, Atlanta's Mike Bibby, San Antonio's Roger Mason and Miami's Daequan Cook in the All-Star weekend event.
- The Clippers have lost five consecutive games to the Magic. They last beat Orlando on Dec. 3, 2006.