Considering the lethargic end to their recent road trip, the Magic returned home looking to make amends and get another win on the board. In the way stood the Trail Blazers of Portland, eight games under .500 and still adjusting to life without Damian Lillard. Unfortunately, with head coach Jamahl Mosley looking on from the distance of health and safety protocols, Orlando committed many of the sins that were evident in their last start, playing with a noticeable lack of energy and execution as they succumbed 98-88.
After a Robin Lopez hook shot opened the scoring the Magic went cold, missing four straight from the field as well as a technical free throw as the Blazers ripped off a 7-0 burst. Some energy from Franz Wagner got the team moving in the right direction – first a beautiful feed to a cutting Chuma Okeke before finishing a slashing cut of his own – but ten straight misses from behind the arc spoke to the team’s offensive difficulties.
Cold shooting was ultimately the story of the opening period, the Magic shooting just 7-26 from the field and committing 4 turnovers as they sputtered their way to a 17 point total. In fact, if it weren’t for a couple of decisive coast-to-coast drives from Jalen Suggs it could have been a more dire circumstance. Instead Orlando were lucky to only be down 5, Portland experiencing their own troubles scoring the ball as they took a 22-17 lead into the first break.
Moe Wagner finally ended the Magic’s futility from long range, knocking down a triple on the team’s first look of the second quarter. He had another one not long after, Orlando then turning defense into offense with a Suggs steal and slam to make it a one possession game. The Magic’s recently returned rookie then tied it up with his next shot attempt, again finishing at the hoop after making a decisive drive. It was 30-apiece, Orlando right there despite the early struggles.
Neither team was able to claim the ascendancy over the next few minutes, the Blazers on multiple occasions opening up a three or four point advantage that the Magic would reel in. Unfortunately, after a strong finish by Franz Wagner knotted things at 38 the ability to score would once more seemingly abandon Orlando. Consecutive turnovers by Lopez preceded a trio of empty possessions, Portland ultimately building a 16-2 run largely on the back of opportunistic offensive rebounding. It allowed them to close the half with a sizable lead, up 54-40 at the main break.
It was an ugly start to the game for the Magic, the team shooting just 33.3% from the field (15-45) and 18.8% from deep (3-16). In addition to this, they also coughed the ball up 10 times while surrendering 9 offensive rebounds, including 8 in the second quarter alone. The team had just 16 total points from the starters, a figure almost matched for the Blazers by Jusuf Nurkic alone (15 on 7-12). The play of Suggs (8 points, 2 assists and a steal) and Moe Wagner (10 points, 2 rebounds and a pair of three-point makes) were some of the few bright spots for an Orlando side searching desperately for a sustainable spark.
A Chuma Okeke triple and a pair of successful Franz Wagner drives threatened to get the Magic right back into it, but the team continued to struggle containing Nurkic at the other end. Portland’s big man was a nuisance in the post, on the offensive glass, and operating as a screener, consistently generating chances for himself and his teammates. When shots again started missing the frustration was evident, with forced passes, ill-advised shot attempts and technical fouls blighting efforts to stay in touch. The Blazers had 11 straight at one point, a Ben McLemore triple from the corner capping the run and extending the margin to 23 points. That’s where it continued to hover across the remainder of the frame, settling at 20 as the Magic went into the third-quarter break trailing 81-61.
The fourth quarter was one played without a great deal of energy or urgency from either side, the Magic unable to muster an early run and Portland doing what was needed to maintain their comfortable cushion. Orlando did at one point cut the deficit to just 13 courtesy of a late 7-0 spurt, but the Blazers steadied with two quick baskets to effectively end the contest. The Magic’s reserve unit then scored the final 7 points of the game in garbage time, the result coming in at 98-88 in Portland’s favor.
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: Franz Wagner — played hard all night, even though his outside shot wasn’t falling. The full extent of his tantalizing upside was on display when asked to direct possessions, whether it was his ability to slice through the paint or put a teammate in an advantageous position. Finished with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Second star: Jalen Suggs — 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists in 21 minutes doesn’t immediately jump off the page, but he played with an intensity and purpose that simply wasn’t evident in most of his teammates. The turnovers remain a concern, but the rookie has been undeniably impressive since his return to play.
Third star: Moe Wagner — 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks and a pair of triples amongst his 5-9 shooting mark continues to help the German big man build a case for more playing time.
The loss drops the Magic to 8-37 on the season, a road contest against the 76ers next on the schedule. They’ll try to turn things around in Philadelphia on Wednesday night.