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Blazers 99, Magic 94: Orlando Falters in the second quarter, comeback falls short

NBA: Orlando Magic at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s one thing when Damian Lillard beats your team, and when C.J. McCollum beats your team. It’s another when Shabazz Napier beats your team. On Wednesday night, it was all three, as the Orlando Magic narrowly fell to Portland 99-94. Evan Fournier led the Magic with 22 points, and Jonathan Simmons led a bench-fueled comeback with 16. Lillard led all scorers with 26, McCollum added 24, and Napier scored 19 off the bench.

In many ways, it was surprising that the Magic only lost by 5 points, considering the circumstances of the game. Orlando has relied on solid 3-point luck on both sides of the ball, but the tables turned against the Trailblazers, as the Magic shot a respectable 38%, but Portland shot 52%. They also turned the ball over 15 times, and while Portland was only listed as scoring 14 points off turnovers, each live-ball giveaway felt like a back breaker.

At the start of the game, the Magic looked to have the clear advantage. They got off to an 11-4 lead out the gate, and maintained that steady 9-10 point lead throughout the quarter. It wasn’t until the second quarter that the wheels came off, particularly the final six minutes of the half when Portland went on a 17-0 run. Orlando’s offense dried up, dredging up memories of bad shots, poor ball movement, and constant turnovers.

Ultimately, the Magic would find themselves in an 11-point deficit about halfway through the third quarter, but they slowly rallied over the next 12 minutes. By the end of the third, the margin was back to the 4-point lead Portland started with, and about halfway through the fourth the Magic briefly took the lead on a Fournier 3-pointer. That was the last the Magic would see of the lead, however, as Portland responded with a 9-2 run to retake control. While the Magic threatened here and there, they were never able to string together multiple good possessions against Portland’s stout defense.

Damian Lillard, unsurprisingly, was a force to be reckoned with, leading the Blazers in points, rebounds, and assists. The Magic were forced to respond to him both around the arc (5-10 shooting) and at the rim, leaving opportunities open for other Trailblazers to take advantage of the attention. What was truly infuriating was Shabazz Napier’s 3-point shooting barrage, hitting 5-5 and conjuring echoes of other D-list point guards burning the Magic in an otherwise winnable contest (anyone remember the legendary Austin Rivers game?).

Another key stat? The Magic took just 9 free throws the entire night (though Portland took just 13 themselves). Even though the Magic shot fairly well from the field, their offense looked mortal with their standard 20-25 attempts.

With their third loss in a row, the Magic wrap up their West Coast trip 1-3. They return home to play the Utah Jazz on Saturday.