Once he clanged them both, he had to figure out another way.
"I kind of put us in that situation by missing those free throws, so I kind of had to make up for it," Nelson said.
He did, making the go-ahead basket with 4.1 seconds left, and the Magic avoided a third straight loss by beating the New Jersey Nets 91-90 on Saturday night.
Nelson redeemed himself after missing two foul shots with 19 seconds to go and Orlando up one. Brook Lopez then made a pair to give New Jersey the lead with 11.5 seconds remaining, but the point guard sped down court and tossed in a high floater while falling to his left.
"Just like we drew it up," Nelson said. "Miss the free throws and make the 2."
Dwight Howard had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic, who had dropped two straight at home, blowing an 18-point lead against Utah and falling 110-106 to lowly Toronto on Friday.
"We'd lost our last two, so good to get a win, no matter how you do it," Nelson said. "We wanted to get that taste out of our mouth and go out there and get a win."
Devin Harris had 26 points, eight assists and six rebounds, but missed a pair of free throws with 2:03 left that would have tied it and had a layup spin out with the Nets down four shortly after.
"Just one of things, I make those and maybe it's a different game. Obviously I have to live with it," Harris said. "I've got to be more aggressive in that situation, obviously I can't miss layups and I can't miss free throws."
Reserve Brandon Bass scored 14 points, while Nelson and former Nets guard Vince Carter each had 13 as Orlando won despite shooting just 42 percent. Their defense had betrayed the Magic during their skid, so coach Stan Van Gundy thought it was good that his team had to rely on it Saturday.
"Especially in the third quarter, it was almost a ridiculous quarter of NBA basketball. Both teams I thought played really hard, nobody could do anything offensively," Van Gundy said. "But for us to still be in there with the way we played offensively, I thought was a really good sign."
Carter drove into the lane and slammed down a powerful dunk with 2:29 left to snap an 83-all tie, and he got to the basket again for a spinning layup and a four-point lead with 1:47 to go. Howard followed with two free throws for an 89-83 lead before New Jersey made one last push.
Travis Outlaw made a jumper and after Carter missed on a drive, Jordan Farmer made a 3-pointer to cut it to 89-88 with 20 seconds to play, setting up the finish.
Lopez scored 23 points, getting the better of a foul-prone Howard after Orlando's All-Star center had dominated their seven previous matchups. Outlaw had 20 points, going 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
Orlando beat New Jersey for the 12th time in the past 15 meetings.
"Obviously being up one, we needed that one stop to push it," Harris said. "But we like the effort."
Howard had averaged 21.4 points and 15.1 rebounds against Lopez, who managed only 11.9 and 7.4. The last matchup was particularly one-sided, with Howard getting 30 points and 16 boards in a Nov. 5 victory, when Lopez missed his first 13 shots and finished with 10 points on 3-of-17 shooting.
This one was more even, but the Magic had more balance against a Nets team that put only three players in double figures.
Howard hit 4 of 5 shots and the Magic made 62 percent in the first quarter, but led only 31-25 because Lopez scored 12 and hit 5 of 7.
Orlando extended the lead to 12 in the second but gave almost all of it back with poor shooting and worse defending. The Magic made only 33 percent in the period and allowed the Nets to shoot 61 percent, with Farmar's 3-pointer cutting it to 52-51 at halftime.
Outlaw hit two 3-pointers in the final 23 seconds of the third quarter, sending the Nets to the final period with a 69-68 lead.
Harris returned to the locker room late in the first half for IV fluids after a cramp and missed the start of the third quarter. ... Van Gundy said he thought the Magic had taken a step back in energy and effort, but wasn't harping on the players' mistakes. He realized that doesn't help matters and had gotten some feedback telling him so, but it didn't come from the players. "The one thing about coaching is you can get a lot of help. There's a lot of people out there who help you with your job," Van Gundy told reporters before the game. "You guys, you guys are very helpful. The fans, very, very helpful. So yeah, you get feedback from a lot of different areas." ... Nets reserve Terrence Williams missed his third straight game with an abdominal strain.