In a running theme for the season, the Portland Trail Blazers were good enough to stay close to the Orlando Magic all evening, but not good enough to beat them. Orlando used their inside dominance to get easy points for most of the evening, and their burgeoning defense gave the Blazer offense fits, with the exception of the red-hot CJ McCollum.
The Blazers were led by McCollum (29 points on 11-19 shooting), plus Damian Lillard (17 points), Al-Farouq Aminu (16 points), and Allen Crabbe (14 points) off the bench.
Little defense was seen in the first quarter, as both teams enjoyed some fun shooting and dunks. The Blazers had 7 turnovers, with sloppy play galore. Only four Blazers scored in the quarter: Lillard (7 points), Crabbe (7) McCollum (8) and Vonleh (4) were the total of Portland's offensive output. Orlando had no issues going to the hole, as the majority of their points were scored in the paint (23 in the first quarter alone), where the Blazers had no answers. Despite all this, the Blazers were within a single possession by the quarter's end.
End of First: Orlando 29, Portland 26
The Blazers picked up the interior defense in the second quarter, shutting down the Magic in the paint. This turned a corner, as Orlando struggled to score points elsewhere and Portland took control. McCollum continued to control the offense, and when Al-Farouq Aminu calmly waited and sunk a three-pointer, the Blazers led by 5 and forced a Magic timeout. The stretch after the timeout was not pretty.
2:27 Tobias Harris misses 10-foot two point jumper
2:25 Elfrid Payton offensive rebound
2:24 Elfrid Payton makes two point shot
2:08 Ed Davis bad pass (Victor Oladipo steals)
2:03 Victor Oladipo makes two point shot
1:54 Gerald Henderson bad pass (Tobias Harris steals)
1:52 Tobias Harris makes layup
1:52 Damian Lillard shooting foul (Tobias Harris draws the foul)
1:52 Tobias Harris makes free throw 1 of 1
It was exactly as sloppy as it reads. In 30 seconds the lead was gone and Orlando was back in tenuous control.
Despite this stretch, Portland hung close, and were in a good position to steal the game when they headed to the locker room.
Halftime: Orlando 49, Portland 48
The third quarter was spent with Orlando re-establishing their inside control, and showing their improved defense. The Blazers struggled to score points against the renewed D, and found themselves in an 11 point hole halfway through the quarter. The Blazers pushed back, but could only cut the lead to 6, Orlando easily bumped the lead back to 10, but couldn't shake the nagging Blazers. They pulled within 4 late before the Magic beat the buzzer.
End of Third: Orlando 74, Portland 68
The fourth quarter opened with another Blazers meltdown. For the second time, the (slightly-edited) play by play says it all.
11:06 68-77 Victor Oladipo makes 25-foot three point jumper (Evan Fournier assists)
10:53 C.J. McCollum bad pass (Victor Oladipo steals)
10:48 Damian Lillard enters the game for C.J. McCollum
10:26 Damian Lillard bad pass
10:15 68-79 Victor Oladipo makes jumper
9:57 Damian Lillard misses 25-foot three point jumper
9:56 Damian Lillard offensive rebound
9:45 Allen Crabbe out of bounds lost ball turnover
9:33 68-81 Evan Fournier makes two point shot
9:18 Allen Crabbe bad pass
9:18 Trail Blazers Full timeout
For a game seemingly defined by Orlando's interior dominance, the Blazers' "keystone cops" sequences often led to the biggest turnarounds.
The Blazers made one last push at the midway point of the fourth quarter, but Orlando easily swatted it off. By the time McCollum was called for a very borderline flagrant-one foul, the Magic were comfortably into a double-digit lead, and despite a late run, the Blazers ran out of time to close the gap. They'll have 36 hours of break to prepare for another Florida opponent with a strong inside presence.
A day off for travel, then one of the rarest regular season events: A morning game. The Blazers play the Miami Heat at 10am Pacific Time Sunday morning. Stay tuned tonight for more about this game from Dave Deckard.