The Orlando Magic improved to 2-0 on their road trip Wednesday with a narrow 107-104 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers, handing Portland its first home defeat of the season. Three-point shooting propeled Orlando to an early 23-point advantage, but it had to fend off a furious Blazers rally in the fourth period to escape with the win. J.J. Redick scored 17 points in 27 minutes off the Magic's bench to lead them in scoring, while Jameer Nelson broke out of his slump in a major way, putting in 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting.
The Magic withstood a quietly strong game from LaMarcus Aldridge, who shot 10-of-17 from the floor for 23 points and played better-than-advertised post defense. Jamal Crawford came off the Blazers' bench and torched the Magic, as he usually does, with 24 ponts in 30 minutes.
Through the first half, Orlando shot well and moved the ball brilliantly, rarely letting its offense stagnate. Even if the Magic hadn't shot 11-of-18 on threes in the half, one still would have been satisfied with the way they set those looks up. And they crushed the Blazers on the boards, 24-13, helping compensate for their unsightly nine turnovers.
|Team||Pace||Efficiency||eFG%||FT Rate||OReb%||TO Rate|
|Green denotes a stat better than the team's 2010/11 average;|
red denotes a stat worse than the team's 2010/11 average.
But the Magic didn't maintain that momentum for all the second half, though they did enter the fourth period with a 17-point advantage. Perhaps because the three-ball had been so kind to them, the Magic looked to involve Dwight Howard more and more in their offense. That means someone makes a post-entry pass and stands there, while three other players also stand in place. Howard then takes a bunch of dribbles and puts up a hook of some kind, maybe even drawing a foul.
The Magic's failure to apply pressure to Portland help fuel the hosts' comeback. Though Orlando shot 7-of-15 in the fourth quarter for a respectable 46.7 percent, it was a stark drop-off from the 61.8 percent figure it maintained through three quarters. Some of that is simple regression to the mean, and some of that is Portland's defense, but a lot of it is the Magic abandoning the ball and player movement that helped put them up big in the first place.
Crawford, Aldridge, and Gerald Wallace each scored nine points in the fourth for the Blazers, providing the firepower needed to get back to within striking distance of the Magic. But it was their work on the defensive end that swung the momentum in their favor and forced Orlando to cling to its lead.
Nate McMillan elected to press the Magic as they brought the ball up, sending Wallace and Nicolas Batum, both listed at 6-foot-8, to trap Nelson. That move forced the Magic to call a timeout, after which they turned the ball over. They tried it once more and got Nelson to cough the ball up along his own baseline, leading to an easy jam for Wesley Matthews.
This is a game the Magic could have put away early. They jumped out to an 8-0 lead with three layups and a dunk within the game's opening 100 seconds, forcing McMillan to call an early timeout. At no point during the first 36 minutes did Portland look like a team with the energy to make a comeback; the Trail Blazers were on a second night of a back-to-back set and looked the part.
But as the Magic's offense unraveled, Portland stirred to life on both ends of the floor. Had it not missed so many bunnies during the game's opening minutes--Wallace had at least three uncontested layups that ought to have dropped--it might have managed to complete the comeback.
When seven players score in double figures and the team makes 16 threes, the Magic ought to win easily no matter the opponent. In that regard, one can view Wednesday's game as a letdown. Then again, Orlando knocked off the West's second-best team in its own building. There's something to be said for that.