Damian Lillard scored four straight points in overtime and came up with a key steal leading to an assist to carry the Portland Trail Blazers to a 125-119 victory against the Orlando Magic on Monday. The rookie point guard drilled a long two-pointer to break a 112-all tie, and then followed it with a floater to push Portland's lead to four. On Orlando's next possession, shooting guard Arron Afflalo dribbled the ball off his foot, and Lillard recovered the loose ball and hooked up with J.J. Hickson on an uncontested dunk to put a tired Magic team in a six-point hole with 1:07 to play.
The loss is Orlando's ninth straight and followed a script familiar to the team and its fans over that span. The Magic built a big early lead with great offense, but fell apart defensively in the second half to let their opponents back into the game. Monday's loss was the sixth time in the nine-game skid that Orlando has fallen by six points or fewer.
The Magic had to work hard just to even force overtime, needing a three-pointer from Jameer Nelson with 8.9 seconds left. Afflalo forced a miss on a deep three-point try by Lillard to end the fourth quarter.
J.J. Redick led Orlando with a season-high 29 points. Afflalo had 24, while Nikola Vučević contributed 17 points, 13 rebounds, and a career-best five assists. For Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27, while Hickson finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds. Nicolas Batum scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Portland went on an 8-0 run to wrest control of the game in the late stages of the fourth quarter. Aldridge scored an easy jook in the lane over Josh McRoberts to begin the rally. Wesley Matthews followed that hoop with a three-pointer to give Portland a 98-97 lead. On Orlando's next possession, the Magic got the ball to Afflalo in the left corner, from which spot he entered the game shooting 50 percent. He missed the shot on this occasion, however, and Batum drilled a three-pointer to build the hosts' lead to four. That basket proved especially disheartening because it came off an Aldridge offensive rebound.
Another triple from Batum would push Portland's lead to five with 1:14 remaining. A pair of Nelson free throws and a short jumper from Vučević cut Portland's lead to one. Batum converted two free throws to give the Blazers a three-point lead, but Nelson followed that make with his clutch triple.
The Magic built a nine-point halftime lead on the strength of their ball movement. On a night when Nelson set the Magic's all-time assist record, everyone seemed keen to ping the ball around the perimeter and to put pressure on Portland's defense. Orlando tallied 18 assists on its 23 first-half baskets, with Nelson doing a particularly impressive job setting the table for Afflalo coming off screens.
The Trail Blazers got an uncharacteristically strong effort from their bench in the first half, which production helped them stay within striking distance of the Magic. Veteran combo guard Ronnie Price had eight of the reserves' 17 first-half points, doing damage with his speed in getting to the rim.
But Portland fought back with a blistering offensive output in the third quarter. The Blazers shot 15-of-20 from the floor for 37 points to erase its nine-point deficit. Lillard, whom Orlando limited to only four points before intermission, came out looking determined to attack the Magic on every possession. His aggressiveness kept the Magic guessing and helped free Hickson for easy baskets. A castoff from the Sacramento Kings, Hickson scored 10 of his 20 in the period, with four dunks. Lillard, for his part, dished six of his 10 assists in the third as well.
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn shortened his rotation in the second half, leaving no doubt that he wanted his team's eight-game losing streak to end. The Magic started the fourth quarter with their normal finishing lineup featuring Nelson, Redick, Afflalo, McRoberts, and Vučević and did not deviate from it at any point in the period. That lineup also played the balance of overtime until Vučević fouled out. Starting forwards DeQuan Jones and Andrew Nicholson played 19 and 17 minutes, respectively. No other Magic player logged more than five.
|Final - 1.7.2013
|Portland Trail Blazers