Lately, the Orlando Magic have had a knack for finding new ways to lose games, but they simply didn’t have the horses to compete in this one.
The Magic held the Portland Trail Blazers’ star backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to a relatively quiet 21 and 20 points in their 95-88 loss to the Blazers, but ultimately the injuries were too much to overcome.
When Aaron Gordon checked himself out with 1:23 left in the third quarter, Orlando was already down 12. The Magic made a late push that cut the game to 5 points with 3:04 remaining but were ultimately out of gas and out of time when they tried to push it further than that.
Gordon’s injury left the Magic with two starters from their day one roster available, and one of them scored six points.
In a spot where the Magic needed everything from their few healthy guys, only one truly stepped up to the challenge.
Nikola Vucevic scored 26 points, played 34 minutes, and grabbed 14 rebounds – all game-highs for either team. The offense ran through him at the end, as the Montenegrin big man had a game-high nine points in the fourth quarter and a team-high 11 in the third – equalling out to 20 points in the second half, the most by any player in the game.
As a unit, the Magic offense looked a bit disjointed while trying to fit new guys into new roles. Orlando shot 38 percent from the floor, and only Vucevic was over 50 percent.
Among the struggling contributors for the Magic were Marreese Speights, who was 1-of-9 including 1-of-6 from deep.
After the game, Magic head coach Frank Vogel said that it was a lack of execution, not rhythm that was the problem:
“I thought we had a lot of good possessions and really played the right way and didn’t get a lot of payoff,” said Vogel, “a lot of situations we didn’t finish well at the rim.”
Without shooting around him, Magic point guard Elfrid Payton wasn’t very aggressive, attempting only six shots in 27 minutes. Vogel went to a three point guard lineup down the stretch in an effort to improve spacing, with Payton, D.J. Augustin, and Shelvin Mack taking the floor at the same time.
While that may have impacted Payton’s production, it was clear that Augustin was the best Magic point guard on the floor tonight, as he scored 14 points and dished out a team-high four assists.
The Magic players and coaching staff have repeatedly echoed that the team has all it needs on the roster to overcome these injuries, and yet they continue to fall flat. Either they will have to figure out how to harness the remaining talent on the roster, or the season will be effectively over by the time they are healthy again.
The next test for the Magic (11-19) will come on the road, as they travel up north to take on the Detroit Pistons (16-13) and Chicago Bulls (8-20) on Saturday and Wednesday, respectively.