Coming off the back of two incredibly tough losses, Orlando were looking to right the ship against a team they’ve had recent difficulty with. Something else making the task a tricky one was the fact that this was the end of a four-game road trip and their third contest in four nights. Unfortunately, what could have been predicted as a schedule loss turned into an actual one, with the Magic falling 118-103 in a relatively ugly and lethargic performance.
The opening quarter was a sluggish one for the Magic, the result of both undoubtedly tired legs and solid interior defense by the Blazers. After tying the game at 9-apiece on the back of a Markelle Fultz triple, Orlando proceeded to miss their next 10 shots, giving up a 15 point run to the opposition and forcing Steve Clifford to call a hasty time-out. After a DJ Augustin floater blessedly broke the drought the Magic went right back to hoisting up bricks and coughing up turnovers, allowing Portland to add another 7 to their total without response before a Mo Bamba putback closed the quarter. Heading into the break Orlando found themselves down 31-13, a deficit created by their 19.2% shooting (6-28) and 5 turnovers. Things were ugly.
Thankfully, the second quarter opened with a noticeably greater level of energy and direction from the Magic. The ball was moving more quickly, while players offered purposeful off-ball cuts and screens. 7 quick points from Terrence Ross, a pair of buckets from Aaron Gordon, and then a triple from Augustin made up a 14-2 run, forcing a Portland time-out as Orlando closed the gap to just 6.
Before the Magic could potentially lock things up they went back into another short funk, conceding 7 straight and allowing the Blazers to again establish a double-figure advantage. Nikola Vucevic continued to have trouble putting the ball in the hoop, missing some good looks and taking his tally to just 3 of 10 at the time. Fournier also had a tough stretch, having a dunk blocked, missing a layup, and seeing Whiteside turn away another layup attempt a split-second before it hit the glass.
Poor shooting really was the story of Orlando’s first half. As a team they made just 30.5% of their attempts from the field, including an ugly 23.1% from deep. Vucevic was 4 of 12. Fournier 4 of 11. Gordon an ice-cold 2 of 13. By comparison, Portland were lead by an efficient 15 points from Damien Lillard (6 of 9 from the field) as they made 46.7% of their shots as a team. All things considered, the 57-44 deficit Orlando faced was somewhat kind.
The third quarter followed a familiar script for the Magic. Every time they strung a couple of baskets together they would give up a run at the other end. Likewise, when they were able to stymie the Blazers their own offense would go cold as they ceded momentum and any advantage. Lillard and CJ McCollum torched Orlando in the period, combining for 5 triples and 26 points in the frame. Fultz was unable to stick with Lillard off the ball as he routinely got himself open behind the arc, while McCollum used his handles to consistently shake free. When the quarter closed it was 93-75 in Portland’s favour, and a long way back for the Magic.
Somewhat predictably, the gap was indeed proven to be too much to overcome in the fourth quarter. Despite chipping away at the deficit on a couple of occasions Orlando continued to struggle to score efficiently, and as long as either Lillard or McCollum remained in the game they weren’t able to string together enough stops. Lillard finished with 36, 3 and 6 for the game, while McCollum got his personal tally to 31, 8 and 4. Only two other Blazers scored in double-figures, but it didn’t matter. The star backcourt provided all the firepower Portland needed to secure the victory.
For Orlando, Vucevic’s 23 and 13 paced the team. Augustin chipped in 17 off the bench, while Fournier added 16 and Gordon an 11 point double-double. However, the most telling numbers were those related to the team’s turgid shooting. Collectively the Magic finished at 36.8% from the field for the night, with just 7 made triples on 28 attempts. Fournier shot 7 of 17. Augustin 6 of 16. Terrence Ross 3 of 11. Isaac 3 of 9. Gordon an almost unfathomable 4 of 17. Add it all up and you have the recipe for a double digit road loss, 118-103 Portland.
Orlando’s three stars
Hockey is a pretty great sport, so I thought I would steal one of its best little touches for my own game analysis: the three stars. Here is who caught my eye tonight.
First star: Magic fans who stayed up to watch the whole game — Considering the late tip off, and considering the team’s struggles, and considering the performance offered … well, if you still had the TV turned on at the final buzzer you deserve this.
Second star: Nikola Vucevic — Vooch really struggled to impact this game in a meaningful way and it felt like he could barely buy a bucket all night long. Still, he continued to toil away and demonstrably cared, ultimately putting up 23 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals and 2 blocks.
Third star: Jonathan Isaac — A relatively forgettable night, but his defensive alertness and energy was evident during the third quarter when the Magic briefly threatened to make a run. 4 steals, 2 blocks and a fistful of deflections speak to his ability to impact a sequence of play.
For the Magic, it’s time to come home and lick their wounds. They’ll next be in action on Monday night against the Bulls, where they’ll be hoping that home court is a little more friendly. We’ll wait and see.