Make sure you have an afternoon coffee because Friday night’s game in Portland promises to go past your bed time.
While you may have other plans this Friday night (hello, Star Wars!) the Magic find themselves in a bit of a downward spiral. Since breaking .500, the Magic have lost five of their past six contests with their only victory coming over the lowly New Orleans Pelicans amidst their historic 13-game losing streak.
So, things could be better.
The Portland Trailblazers face a similar set of circumstances out west with an injury depleted roster and a Western Conference playoff race that is fast putting the Blazers behind them. Portland is still in a good position to snag a seventh or eighth seed, but who really wants to play either of the LA squads? Yikes.
And history isn’t on the Magic’s side. The Blazers have taken five straight from them but things could be a bit different this time around. The Blazers are notably thinner in the froncourt thanks to injuries to Jusurf Nurkic and Zach Collins.
The Blazers were forced to dig up some Hall of Fame front court depth in the form of Carmelo Anthony and.....he’s been really good.
Melo with the touch pass and the Blazers bench loves it— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 30, 2019
Having fun out there. pic.twitter.com/PbNKXlLdLm
The now 17-year veteran has been averaging 16.8 points and 6.2 rebounds on 41.4 percent shooting from three. The on/off pirates can sail on because Melo has made the Blazers over six points better per 100 possessions.
But as always, the Blazers start and stop with Damian Lillard who’s putting up another All-Star level performance this season with 26.5 points, 7.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds.
McCollum has been ever more efficient in his secondary role with 22 points, 3.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.
Hassan Whiteside has been equally impressive to Melo as an unheralded pickup with 15.7 points and 12.9 rebounds per game and has been a net positive in his time on the floor despite his defensive lapses.
The Blazers overall are ninth in scoring, 11th in pace and 20th in defensive rating. They are a heavy isolation and jump shooting team as they are 30th in assists and 28th in driving to the paint. They are second in the NBA in most frequent isolation possessions.
The Magic can defeat the Blazers on the boards (30th) and at the free-throw stripe (29th). They don’t turn the ball over (fourth) but they also struggle to create opportunities for themselves (29th).
Another look at Markelle Fultz meeting Fred Van Vleet at the rim. pic.twitter.com/aUi63f0CFB— Preston Ellis (@PrestonEllis) November 30, 2019
This will be a great test for Markelle Fultz who will have his hands full with one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA. He’ll have plenty of help from his front court which could mitigate Dame’s effect or at least eliminate a clear path to the basket.
Can the Magic pull it off and get back in the win column?
Who: Orlando Magic (12-16) at Portland Trailblazers (12-16)
When: December 20th, 10 pm
Where: Moda Center - Portland, OR
TV: Fox Sports Florida
Line: Nuggets -3.5, O/U 216
Injuries: Orlando - Jonathan Isaac (questionable), Al-Farouq Aminu (out); Portland - Mario Hezonja (doubtful), Zach Collins (out), Jusurf Nurkic (out)