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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Orlando Magic Preview

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The Blazers look to start a winning streak as the Magic come to town.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (7-6) vs. Orlando Magic (8-6)

Wednesday, November 15th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Magic injuries: D.J. Augustin (out), Adreian Payne (out), Jonathan Isaac (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Orlando Pinstriped Post

The Blazers bounced back from a bad loss to the Brooklyn Nets last week with an encouraging win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday. They’ll look to build off that victory when the Orlando Magic visit the Moda Center Wednesday night.

The Magic have cooled after a hot start. They went 6-2 to begin the season with surprising wins over the Spurs and Cavs among others, but have lost four of their last six.

What to watch for

  • Aaron Gordon 3-point specialist? Gordon is best known for his athleticism. The former dunk contest runner-up has never shot better than 29.6 percent from downtown in his career. This year, though, he’s among the league leaders at 51.9 percent—just behind CJ McCollum and ahead of, well, everyone else who is attempting at least three 3-pointers per game. Gordon is putting up 4.5 outside attempts while scoring 18.3 points and pulling down 7.9 rebounds per game.
  • Defending the deep ball. Gordon isn’t the only Magic player who can hit threes. Orlando is second behind only the Golden State warriors in three-point shooting percentage at 39.9. They are putting up nearly 30 threes a game and making about 12. The Blazer big men will need to be ready to jump out and contest these shots. Besides Gordon both starting center Nikola Vucevic and backup big man Marreese Speights are hitting over 40 percent of their shots from deep.
  • The battle inside. Orlando ranks near the bottom of the league in rebounding—perhaps a result of having their big men behind the arc. Portland, meanwhile, leads the league in rebounding percentage. The Blazers are pulling down 54.2 percent of all misses. While Portland hasn’t been dominating the inside scoring so far this season, they did just outscore Denver 42 to 32 in points in the paint. The Magic are giving up a league worst 51.9 points in the paint, so inside scoring could be advantage again for the Blazers.

What they’re saying

Magic beat writer Josh Robbins wrote about Gordon’s improved play in the Orlando Sentinel before their game on Monday:

Less is more for Gordon. In his first three NBA seasons, he often forced contested shots or attempted to be fancy with his dribble, creating problems for himself and hampering the Magic’s ball movement. But this year, he’s doing what [coach Frank] Vogel has asked him to do. Gordon has reduced his ill-advised shot attempts and simplified his ball-handling, and his improvement in those areas has helped the Magic open their season with an 8-5 record.

Gordon is discovering he doesn’t need to force shots to be effective. In fact, he has posted the best individual statistics of his career so far this season. His 19.0 points per game rank second on the Magic. He leads the team in rebounding, averaging 7.7 boards per game. And he leads the entire NBA in 3-point shooting, having made 55.3 percent of his attempts.

Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily wrote about the Magic’s flaws, which were on display in their loss to Golden State on Monday:

Everyone could notice the Magic trying to go at it alone and break down the defense on their own. This is a common trap the Magic fall into. It is the trap Golden State laid perfectly for Orlando.

The Magic certainly settled when things got rough, they went quickly through their offense and took the first quasi-open 3-pointer they could get. Orlando has a habit of forcing play off the dribble and settling for 3-pointers when they face these moments of struggle.

And when the shots do not fall, the frustration becomes obvious on defense. The Magic lose their flow and rhythm on that end. The intensity drops and teams are able to score more easily. Orlando’s defense is far from consistent.