The Orlando Magic were helpless to contain the Portland Trail Blazers' outside shooting Friday night, couldn't exploit their obvious height advantage, and dropped their second straight game, 102-87. Lightly-regarded role player Martell Webster led everyone with 24 points on 14 shots, with 5 three-pointers, filling in admirably for All-Star shooting guard Brandon Roy, who sat out with a sore hamstring. Point guards Andre Miller and Steve Blake combined for 37 points, 15 assists, and just 4 turnovers. Orlando managed to limit power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers' best healthy player, to 7-of-17 shooting, but he nonetheless managed a game-high 14 rebounds and 3 assists. Orlando's Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis worked themselves back into an offensive rhythm, scoring 15 points each, but neither player drew a free-throw attempt in 63 combined minutes. The loss, Orlando's 7th in its last 11 games, drops the Magic to 2nd place in the Southeast Division and, as John Hollinger reports, may force coach Stan Van Gundy to adjust his rotation.
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's season average;
red denotes a stat worse than the team's season average.
An undermanned Portland team was just too much for the Magic, who are reasonably healthy, to handle. As was the case Wednesday in Denver, the Magic could not rotate quickly enough defensively, especially on the perimeter, which resulted in several wide-open looks for the Blazers. There's only so much a defense can hope to accomplish against a team that moves the ball as well as Portland does, which Orlando learned the hard way tonight.
Offensively, the Magic continued to struggle. They couldn't get their three-pointers to drop, no matter how clean their looks were. In what should have been taken as a sign of things to come for Orlando, Vince Carter--in his first game back after missing the previous three with a sprained shoulder--bricked his first three-point attempt long and to the left. An ugly, ugly result... on a solid attempt within the rhythm of the offense. It was just that sort of night.
But there's the real issue: the Magic haven't been able to dig in defensively on "those sorts of nights" this season. They couldn't even muster a rebound advantage against a Portland team without any centers. Aldridge--and Blazers fans will be the first to tell you this--is a mediocre rebounder at best. He snagged 14 tonight, which ties a season-high, in 38 minutes. There's really no reason why the Magic should let an undersized, undermanned team out-rebound them. 42-38 was Portland's advantage on the glass tonight. The only way to explain that, really, is effort and energy. That's not to say that the Magic were sleepwalking; Portland was just that much better, especially in the first half, in which it built a 20-point lead and never looked back.
The Magic's game plan should have been to dump the ball to Dwight Howard in the low post on each possession and make the most of his matchup against the 36-year old Juwan Howard. They tried feeding him the ball, sure, but Portland's aggressive double-teams took Howard out of his game. When he did manage to establish inside position, the Blazers fouled him to put him at the foul line, where he missed 7 of his 10 tries. When he kicked the ball out, the Magic missed their three-pointers. Nothing went right, and the Magic's inability to cool the Blazers' three-point shooting (11-of-21) did them in. Well, that and a lot of other things, which we just went over.