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Magic vs. Blazers preview: Aaron Gordon a game-time decision

The Magic face another difficult test in containing the Blazers’ backcourt

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The good news for the Magic is that there won’t be anyone in the crowd heckling Damian Lillard.

Remember what happened when the Blazers played in Orlando last month? Lillard got his revenge on a courtside heckler by dropping 34 second-half points to lead Portland to a 128-114 victory.

Heckler or not, though, the Magic, with their defensive deficiencies in the backcourt, face a challenge in containing Lillard and C.J. McCollum. And the Orlando defense could be shorthanded as is with Aaron Gordon listed as a game-time decision due to back stiffness.

Should Gordon be unable to play, Jonathan Isaac may start in his place and see increased playing time despite his minutes restriction.

Orlando, entering the fourth game of a five-game West Coast trip, are coming off a loss to the Golden State Warriors in which they held their own defensively in the first half and established an 18-point lead before Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson exploded in the second half. Still, it was an encouraging performance considering the Magic were playing the defending champs (albeit without two of their stars), on the road in the second game of a back-to-back.

They now take on a 12-8 Blazers team that has dropped three straight and struggled mightily on the defensive end in the month of November. Blazers Edge writes that over their last seven games, the Blazers are allowing 119 points per game and have the worst defensive rating in the league. As a result, their defensive rating overall has dropped to 15th in the league at 108.7 points per 100 possession, which is just slightly better than the Magic at 108.9 per.

Behind the strength of their backcourt, the Blazers do have a top-10 offensive rating, with their 110.7 points per good for eighth in the league.

Blazers’ center Jusuf Nurkic is expected to play after suffering a shoulder contusion on Sunday. He’ll have his hands full with one of the league’s hottest players at the moment...

A national audience will get a rare look at Vucevic and the Magic with the game being on NBATV.

“Vucevic just keeps getting better, and [Terrence] Ross seems to be coming into his own,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts told reporters. “They’re melding together as a unit.”

Despite their improved play this season, the Magic’s offensive rating remains towards the bottom of the league at 105.7 points per (24th in NBA).

The Magic have lost three of their last four games, though one loss was on a buzzer-beater against the East-leading Raptors and the other was a come-from-behind victory by the defending champs.

The Magic, though, have not had much success in the city of Portland, having won in the city just once since 2009. They have dropped four straight overall against the Blazers.

But this team doesn’t seem like the same old Magic. They’ve shown resiliency and have shown they can compete with the league’s best (they still just need to learn how to protect leads and close games). If the Magic are able to win, they would improve to 2-2 on their West Coast swing and would head to Phoenix with a chance to complete the trip with a winning record.