A little known feature that was introduced in Inkscape 0.48 was the ability to resize and rotate selected nodes in a path using on-screen handles. These handles behave in the same manner as when rotating or resizing objects with the select tool.
Enabling the onscreen handles
To use this feature, first you need to enable it, so you need to select the Node tool from the toolbox, then flip the toggle to enable display of the resize / rotate handles for nodes:
Now, with the feature enabled, select 2 or more nodes, and the resize handles should appear around them in the same way when you select an object with the selection tool.
Use these handles in the same manner to resize the nodes.
Note also that the ctrl and shift keys work to constrain the transformation in the same way as with the select tool.
The same applies to rotating nodes. Select the nodes to be rotated, then single-click one of the nodes again to enter rotate mode.(just like when free rotating). Now use the handles in the same to rotate the selected nodes.
Note also that the ctrl, shift and the rotation point all also work for rotating nodes as it does with the select tool.