INDIANAPOLIS — Andrew Nicholson was unstoppable over a 12-minute, 39-second stretch during the first half of Tuesday night’s game between the Orlando Magic and the Indiana Pacers.

Nicholson made eight of his nine shot attempts and scored 18 points as the Magic whittled away an early Pacers lead.

Nicholson’s hot streak didn’t last.

Not because Nicholson started to miss shots. But because Nicholson was subbed out with 4:51 left in the second quarter and didn’t return to the court until the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Why?

After the game, I asked Magic coach Jacque Vaughn to explain his rationale.

Vaughn wanted Jason Maxiell — not Nicholson — to guard rugged Pacers power forward David West.

 “I thought Max was unbelievable against David West, and [Pacers coach Frank] Vogel ended up playing David West the entire third,” Vaughn said afterward. “So I thought that matchup was great for us. Andrew scored all his points against Scola. And, so, Scola wasn’t in the game, and so it was on me to make that call, and I did.”

To understand why Vaughn wanted Nicholson in against Scola, let’s flash back to last season. According to NBA.com’s StatsCube, Nicholson made all six of his shot attempts when he faced Scola last season.

And, to be sure, Maxiell did play effective defense against West on Tuesday night. West made just three of his nine shot attempts when Maxiell was on the court.

But by taking Nicholson off the court when he did, Vaughn cooled off his hottest scorer — a player who was on his way to a career night.  

Nicholson was one of the only Magic players who was producing anything offensively against the Pacers. If you subtract his 8-of-10 shooting night, then Orlando’s field-goal percentage drops from 38.7 percent to 33.7 percent.

If Nicholson wants to earn more minutes, it appears he needs to progress on defense. Last season, he had a tendency to be overpowered by more experienced power forwards. He made strides in the weight room during the offseason, but he needs to make more strides in order to effectively guard players like West.

What happened Tuesday should give him added incentive to keep up that momentum in the weight room.

Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at jbrobbins@tribune.com and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.