Orlando Magic (16-24) at Portland Trail Blazers (18-23)
Jan. 13, 2017, 7:00 PST
Watch: KGW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out)
Magic injuries: Serge Ibaka (DTD)
SBN Affiliate: Orlando Pinstriped Post
UPDATE: The Blazers are recommending an early arrival for tonight’s game (as well as the other events at Moda Center this weekend). Here is a snippet of their press release.
PORTLAND, Ore. (January 13, 2017) – Portland Trail Blazers and Portland Winterhawks fans are strongly encouraged to arrive at the Rose Quarter early and plan ahead for venue entry Friday with both teams having home games. Moda Center doors open at 5:30 p.m. for the Trail Blazers game vs. Orlando, and the Veterans Memorial Coliseum doors open at 6 p.m. for the Winterhawks game against Spokane. Guests should also factor in additional time to clear venue security checkpoints.
With inclement weather still impacting Oregon and Southwest Washington, fans are encouraged to exercise their best judgement and take any necessary safety precautions. It is also suggested that fans consider using alternate transportation methods to reach the Rose Quarter.
The Trail Blazers are coming off arguably their most impressive win of the year - a 102-86 trouncing of the Cavaliers - and will now face the visiting Magic.
Orlando will be looking to record its first win of a six-game road-trip, which has kicked-off with two losses. Unfortunately for the Magic, they are crossing paths with a Blazers team that is playing its best basketball of the season. Tougher competition aside, the Magic are struggling with several internal problems when it comes to aligning its roster.
Elfrid Payton was once thought to be the point guard of the future for the Magic, but his offensive struggles have led to him losing opportunities to DJ Augustin. Augustin is playing on his eighth team in nine seasons, so this is a major cause for concern for Orlando’s long-term backcourt situation.
The only thing messier than Orlando’s point guard battle is its frontcourt situation. Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo were both brought in over the summer, which forced rising-star Aaron Gordon to play out of position at the small forward spot. Throw Nikola Vucevic into the discussion, and you now have four players worthy of starting in the post. A trade before the deadline seems likely for Orlando.
The Trail Blazers will get another opportunity to prove that their recent defensive improvements are more than just a flash in the pan. Things were bound to get better with Al-Farouq Aminu healthy, but the turnaround has been tremendous in the month of January. In six games this month, Portland ranks inside the top five in defensive rating and opponent field goal percentage allowed.
Portland has successfully combined its recent uptick in defensive tenacity with superb contributions from its talented backcourt. Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum are in the zone, and Damian Lillard is bound to have a stellar game of his own soon. The Magic’s guard troubles are a welcome invitation for the Blazers’ leading man to shake-off the remaining rust from his ankle rehab.
Even with a healthy Ibaka - a likely game time decision - Orlando is lacking the scoring acumen to keep up with a team that is shooting as well as Portland is. Expecting a win from a team that is five games under .500 seems a little risky, but this matchup definitely favors the Trail Blazers.
This is the first of two meetings between these two teams this year, and both squads have the potential to look significantly different when they meet again at the trade deadline. These two organizations have a history of working together, so this matchup could provide a first-hand look at some potential targets for GM Neil Olshey.