After getting crushed by the Golden State Warriors last evening, the Portland Trail Blazers bounced back in resounding fashion tonight. They welcomed the Orlando Magic into the Moda Center in the same way a spider welcomes a juicy moth. The Magic struggled in the web for a couple minutes before Portland sucked the joyous juices out of a 121-84 win. Without two of their top three players, the Magic never stood a chance. But however preordained, the victory could stand tall in Portland's quest for the post-season. The Blazers will take it gladly.
This game started in "interesting" fashion as the Blazers once again felt compelled to get touches for their non-guard players early. The resulting cacophony of bricks--plus a few nifty shots from Orlando's Evan Fournier--left the Magic up 11-2 and Portland fans nervous. Then CJ McCollum hit a three, followed by Al-Farouq Aminu. All heck broke loose for the rest of the half. Portland's defense wasn't exactly sterling, but the short-handed Magic played all their cards just fielding a starting lineup. As soon as they had to put in bench players, Portland obliterated them. Orlando turned over the ball repeatedly while the Blazers whipped the ball around the perimeter for 6 made three-pointers in the period. The Blazers led 31-24 after one. It only got worse from there.
The second period was a repeat of the first with power replacing deft shooting. The Magic offense crumbled as they settled for desperately missed jumpers. Rebounding like fiends, the Blazers ran them out of the building. If Portland wasn't scoring on the break proper, they jammed it inside for easy layups and dunks in the halfcourt offense. While the Blazers assaulted the rim, Orlando drown themselves in a sea of ill-conceived shots and turnovers. The Blazers won the second period 32-18 and led by 21 at the half.
With Damian Lillard scoring 9 points in the third period, the rest of the game held about as much suspense as your average Sesame Street episode. Ed Davis decided he wanted an early exit, hammering Orlando forward Jason Smith with a double axe-handle chop in retaliation for Smith chucking Lillard a play prior. (See the foul here.) That was the only event of distinction in a ridiculous Blazers romp.
If the Blazers have suffered from a few scheduling losses this year they've also benefited from a couple injury wins. This was one of them. Playing the Orlando Magic without Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, and Brandon Jennings is about the equivalent of facing Portland without Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. There was no way Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier could make up the difference.
The Blazers didn't allow the Magic to win a single quarter tonight...a rare feat. The closest Orlando came to playing even was a 4-point deficit in the third. Otherwise each period was a progressively-worsening nightmare.
Pizza chain Papa John's offers a 50% discount on pizzas after a Magic win. They'll be charging triple for all pizzas tomorrow.
Portland shot 56% from the field, holding Orlando to 37%. The Blazers hit 49% from the arc, notched 34 assists on 47 made buckets (72% of makes assisted), and outscored the Magic 50-32 in the paint.
Statistical Oddity Alert: Every single Blazer registered a positive plus-minus tonight. Hard to lose when that happens, eh?
Listing off the accomplishments of each player would just be mean, so we'll hit the highlights and refer you to the Boxscore.
CJ McCollum pepped up his team after the slow start. He ended up with 18 points. Damian Lillard came alive in the second half for 19 points and 10 assists. Neither one of Portland's guards had to try that hard.
Al-Farouq Aminu abetted CJ in the first quarter, hitting a couple of threes. He'd finish the game 3-5 from distance, making Orlando wonder what the heck they could do to stop the bleeding. (Correct Answer: Nothing.)
Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe, and Gerald Henderson starred off the bench. Leonard looked completely comfortable on his way to 13 points on 5-9 shooting, 3-5 from the arc. He also notched 4 assists, a feat matched by Henderson. Crabbe shot 6-8 for 18 points in 24 minutes. The Magic didn't impede Portland's ball movement but the bench could have seen this as a stat-stuffing opportunity and gone on a selfish spree. Instead they moved the ball just as well as the starters.
Links and Such
Orlando Pinstriped Post will want to forget this game.
The Blazers now stand at 35-32, good for 6th place in the Western Conference playoffs bracket. They remain 1.5 games ahead of the 7th- and 8th-place Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, 4 games in front of the 9th-place Utah Jazz with 15 games remaining. The Memphis Grizzlies sit in 5th position, 4.5 games ahead of the Blazers.
Portland travels to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder at 5:00 p.m. Pacific on Monday.